Earning the Vote: Hanauer 2016

Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Seattle's first four seasons have been remarkable by almost any rubric. But the bar will continue to raise higher with time. Can Hanauer meet the expectations that will be set for him and his club?

Four Open Cup Finals. Four playoff appearances. Three Champions League runs. Runners-up for the Supporter's Shield.

Everything the Sounders have accomplished on the field in their first four years is remarkable. It is easy to become numb to the feats when they are a part of every day life. But this sort of success, prolonged and sustainable, just doesn't happen. Expansion teams are expected to wait and build for a few years while their talent level catches up, while their organization organizes, and if everything goes right, they can start winning a few seasons down the line. Seattle has never been an expansion team, not in the traditional sense, and fans of the club are lucky to have seen nothing but unmitigated success thus far.

Much of that success rests on the shoulders of part-owner, part-employee Adrian Hanauer, who carried over from the USL Sounders to push this club onto the MLS stage. He, along with Chris Henderson and Sigi Schmid, is one of the architects of the Sounders club as we know it today. However, he is the only one who gets his employment voted on every four years.

It is because of the aforementioned success that Hanauer was retained late last week by a nearly 97% approval. 504 voters felt that somehow, the work he had done over the previous four years was not adequate for a new club.

But as with the Presidential election, the next cycle starts as soon as the previous one ends. The expectations were relatively low when Hanauer "took office" four years ago. Now, the Sounders have been established as a power. Their crest will be chalked into playoff scenarios before the season rolls around. The Open Cup is bordering on "birthright". And the absence of Seattle in CONCACAF play, or a Cascadia Cup in the cabinet next year is, to some, a travesty.

Realistically, the GM vote in 2016 will be rather closer than it was in 2012. 97% will not be sustainable barring a four-year dynasty. And the expectation level will be higher. 2012 was a great example. Seventh place in the league table, an Open Cup loss, and Cascadian Failure was only somewhat mitigated by finally making a push in the playoffs. The subsequent 3-0 drubbing stirred grumbles from around the fanbase. This season was not considered good enough. Those accomplishments may be greeted with cheers in other fourth-year cities, but not here.

And while Adrian attempts to find ways for his roster to compete for those cups, the rest of the league is getting better. Simple improvement isn't enough. His job is getting harder as his expectations are rising. More of the same won't be good enough in the eyes of many. A repeat of his first four years could result in a new Sounders GM.

Hanauer has exceeded all expectations to this point. It will be up to him to continue his trend. Because that's how elections work. And even if the worst happens, the Sounders organization will make sure the damage doesn't last long.

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