The Wash: Sounders serve their brand with creation of “S2”

The Wash: Sounders serve their brand with creation of “S2”

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The Wash is David Falk’s take on the world of soccer in The WA.

Read previous columns here.

by David Falk

I’ve had a few days to digest the Sounders’ announcement that they will turn their reserve squad into a USL-Pro side called “Sounders 2” or “S2” beginning in 2015.

The Sounders, in six years in Major League Soccer, have become the Goliath of the sport in the state of Washington. In many ways that’s good. We need the top of the Washington ‘soccer pyramid’ to be healthy.

What stood out to me, as backs were slapped and the word “unprecedented” was bantered about, is what wasn’t announced…what might have been.

There's something familiar about Washington state's unprecedented new football club.
There’s something familiar about Washington state’s unprecedented new football club.

The Sounders are a sports entertainment business, and there really isn’t any sense in asking them to operate otherwise. They have managed (so far) to walk a tight rope between being a Rave Green cash machine and at the same time maintaining “street credibility” by being involved with their supporters, hosting numerous charity causes, and taking a savvy approach to social media.

So, it’s not shocking that they turned something the league is requiring all clubs to do (turn their reserve squads into USL-Pro squads or partner with existing USL-Pro squads) into a staged event that was meant to look like more innovation on their part…even more outreach and connection with their supporters.

It’s not shocking that Sounders supporters are gleefully active online scooping up S2 Trust offerings and season tickets.

My Rave Green glasses shattered a while ago, replaced by Evergreen ones. I see the state of soccer at the adult level in Washington not as a Sounders scene, but as a scene which also includes the Sounders.

So of course there was a slight glimmer of hope before the announcement that perhaps the Sounders were going to reach out beyond their brand and partner with Reign FC on a Memorial Stadium upgrade. A place in the heart of Seattle where both the NWSL and USL-Pro clubs could play.

I even held out the faintest of dreams that the Sounders might partner with the Kitsap Pumas and raise the level of play across the Sound. Or maybe that Tacoma had somehow become more attractive to them in this regard.

Crazy me, I even wondered if a new brand would come on the scene and give us a fresh identity to add to the mix. How cool would “City Football Club of Seattle,” playing under the Space Needle, have been? How richer might the Seattle and state soccer scene have become? How might we have been able to really shine as a soccer culture, embracing a diversity of sides in our biggest city?

I was not shocked when “S2” was announced, bringing USL-Pro soccer to Starfire, where the Sounders Reserves already play. LA Galaxy II and T2 (Timbers) were already either playing or announced. Nor was I wowed by the 20% ownership offered up to supporters. These are good business moves, and if you like modern football as it exists in the United States, and are a Sounders fan, then these announcements must be thrilling.

Before fans talk about all of the opportunities local players will now have to play on S2, let’s take a reality breath. It’s going to be quite some time before “most” of that new team’s roster is going to be local, if ever. That club’s job isn’t to promote local players per se’, but to promote possible Sounders, where ever they come from.

Seattle Sounders Inc. and their new club S2 are under no obligation to undertake direct efforts to make soccer in the state of Washington better at the adult amateur or semi-pro level. To a degree, by their mere existence, they already do.

So, if you see this move as strengthening the Sounders and thus strengthening Washington soccer, I might be able to see that one day, too. With a pair of Rave Green binoculars.

Through my Evergreen glasses of today I see a different side. A jaded view that believes the Sounders had to make this team happen anyway, so they decided to spin it the way they’ve become so good at: calculated service to their brand in the guise of service to their supporters. Ultimately, establishing an FC clone close enough to where they already are and what they already do, to keep actual control.

Why not? It’s working.

It’s up to the rest of Washington…to support…the rest of Washington.

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goalWA.net Local Soccer News is sponsored by Pro Roofing Northwest, Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle, Redmond, Woodinville, Federal Way, Everett, Snohomish, Issaquah, Renton, Kent, Bothell, Edmonds Washington roofing company.

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One thought on “The Wash: Sounders serve their brand with creation of “S2”

  1. I like this. There are folks that are super excited about buying season T2 tix–I mean sort of owning 20% of something, in a way–and I am myself delighted to have more Soundersy games to attend but the “imprecidented” adjective turned out to be big old letdown. That said, the SS FO is admirably focused on their decision-making. They could have embarked on a number of partnships, like those you outlined. They did not, and we have to assume there were darn good reasons.

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