The Wash: Time for Sounders FC to fully embrace their NASL roots

The successful launch of Sounders FC back in 2009 was due in part to the club following the blueprint of Toronto FC’s launch in 2007.

In the latest The Wash column David Falk says it’s time for the Sounders to look to the example of another MLS club and fully embrace their NASL and A-League roots.

Sounders FC have spent the first four years of their life in MLS establishing a winning tradition and displaying a consistent penchant for rotating flashy kits. All the while hordes of supporters have helped the side develop the biggest match day crowds in all of MLS.

When you go to a match though, you’d be hard-pressed to see much of anything that reflects the history of the name “Sounders,” which dates back to 1974. There are no banners for winning the 1977 NASL Pacific Conference, the 1980 NASL Top of the Table, or the 1995 and 1996 A-League Championships won under the name.

Just as the Sounders successfully mimicked the launch of Toronto FC, and even surpassed it with their own special Seattle touches, I encourage the club to now look at what the San Jose Earthquakes are doing this season. They are honoring their history, which also dates back to 1974.

The Earthquakes season tickets feature famous players over the years.

The Earthquakes home ground features giant banners with the phrase “Established in 1974.”

See the photos by Gary Singh courtesy of Quakes fan Ron Gilmore. Click to enlarge.

San Jose Earthquakes 2012 season tickets honor their history. (Ron Gilmore)

The Earthquakes' home ground is adorned with historical banners. (Ron Gilmore)

Sounders fans have encouraged the club to do such things in the past, perhaps most notably the online petition for retro NASL jerseys.

It’s not like the photographs and historical records are not out there to begin such a campaign. They are.

Maybe the Sounders are just waiting for 2014, when the name will have been in action over a span of 40 years.

The “Golden Scarf” celebrations were a step in the right direction (when they honored former Sounders.) Now the club needs to have old-school scarves, kits, shirts, made available to fans as well as someplace at the CLink where we can visit a living archive (museum) of our club’s history, 1974-now. And about those banners…the 1990’s league titles are a MUST.

I don’t know about you, but I hope we don’t have to wait two more years to see Sounders FC show more love to Sounders 1.0 and 2.0.

(Yes, Mr. Joe Roth, we still remember that you wanted to call our team “Alliance,” “Republic” or simply “Seattle FC.”)


10 thoughts on “The Wash: Time for Sounders FC to fully embrace their NASL roots

  1. Great article David! The NASL era San Jose Earthquakes are very humbled by the many gestures from the MLS side to remember the past!

    Please note: Photos of the banners are courtesy of Gary Singh. Thank you!

  2. Great post David! I coudn’t agree with you more.

    The problem is Joe Roth doesn’t understand our history. Obviously Adrian does and I think Drew is on board too. It’s such a shame.

    Soccer around the world is all about tradition and as far as the US goes, Seattle has a ton of history. I can’t believe Portland beat us to a heritage kit. Especially after we had a petition going and presented some preliniary designs. If the Sounders FO wanted to pay respect to Seattle soccer and at the same time make a lot of money, we would have a third kit respecting this history, instead of the gross cyan/electricity combo. I simply don’t get it. This topic drives me crazy.

  3. I know the Quakes have “established 1974” on the backs of their jerseys, and I’m pretty sure the Caps have the old school date on theirs, too. Sigh.

  4. I’m torn on the kits, I agree that a museum or something to remember the NASL/USL Sounders would be awesome but I don’t think they have to do everything Faulk is lobbying for; the problem (to me) is whether is appears to me a marketing grab. It is kind of a shame that they havent put more emphasis on the history of the club but the 40yr mark could be when they’re planning that.

  5. Hi David
    I remember that 1980 season as it was my first as a Sounders fan.
    I still have a sweater and two flags from that era.
    Doug Broadie.
    Original POD member

  6. I’m of the opinion that SOME recognition of the Sounders heritage is a good thing. If they want to slip in a “74” in there somewhere or if they want to have a couple of retro shirts and maybe eventually a retro kit, great. But I feel that having something like banners from the NASL and the A-League just doesn’t make sense – and to be truthful I don’t like the banners at the top of CLink Field now (except for the Open Cup banners). While those are great accomplishments, those leagues have more or less failed and don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things moving forward. Same name, yes, but completely different leagues and levels – you don’t see the Mariners celebrating any of the Rainiers PCL titles with banners in the outfield. What you do see however is the occastion turn back the clock night and a PNW baseball museum, and that’s an interesting concept for CLink Field, David.

    I understand the disapointment with the NASL folding and the want for long time fans to “connect the dots” through the years, but the MLS Sounders is strong enough to not have to do that. I think we need to continue to grow the brand we have now without looking back too much.

  7. tom79, the Mariners have no continuity with the old Seattle Rainiers. The MLS Seattle Sounders, however, do have a pretty explicit continuity with the A-League/USL Sounders. And the A-League/USL Sounders have an implicit continuity with the NASL Sounders as a large number of coaches and players suited up for both iterations. With FC Seattle filling in the gap through the 80s, again, with many of the same players and coaches from both the NASL and A-League/USL eras. Thus, your analogy about the banners does not hold.

    The Sounders should honor the past achievements just as they honor the present. It all adds up together into something bigger. I wish professional soccer didn’t have it’s ups and downs, but it is something we all have to live with. The demise of the NASL does not tarnish our almost-40-year history and the achievements of our guys in any way.

  8. Paul,

    You make some good points, and nothing tarnishes the history of the name, however I still maintain the Rainiers-Mariners analogy. It’s exactly the same thing with the Sounders – different leagues, different level of the sport, black out periods, etc – so my analogy absolutely holds. The Mariners probably aren’t going to retire Fred Hutchinson’s number just like the current MLS Sounders won’t retire Mark Peterson’s (RIP Fred and Mark). If the Mariners were called the Rainiers, should they have recognized their success in the PCL? All 4 league titles won by the Sounders over the past 20 years were done in “minor league” soccer, a different league, a different level of soccer, this was not done as an MLS side.

    I think it’s really important that CLink Field has an area for the history of the Sounders name over the past 40 years much like Safeco does for NW baseball.

    Introduce some retro merchandise, great, but our current brand is growing and strong enough to not have to rely on living in the past.

    1. This comment is probably too late to be read by many, but just wanted to replay to tom79 again. Tom, hanging the banners for our past championships will not hinder the growth of the brand at all. In fact, it might actually add to it. But even if hanging the banners does nothing for the brand, what it does do is validate the time and passion that the players, coaches, and fans of those eras put in to making soccer a big part of the Seattle community. I’d like to think that all the games I went to and all the evangelizing I did for the Sounders and soccer in some way helped make our current situation in MLS a reality. I am sure that there are many others like me, and many more who did a lot more than the little bit I did. The almost-40-years legacy of the Sounders organization (again, nothing at all like that Seattle Rainiers and Seattle Mariners) is the foundation, the soil, of the very growth that acknowledge. You don’t just plant your garden in any old plot of land, do you? No, you nurture the soil and make sure it is always healthy and able to provide the nutrients and support for ideal growth.

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