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Hunt For Multiple Trophy Season From Underdog Role For Sounders

Landon Donovan #10, Robbie Keane #14, Head Coach Bruce Arena, David Beckham #23 and Associate Head Coach Dave Sarachan pose with the yet unmet goal of the Seattle Sounders
Landon Donovan #10, Robbie Keane #14, Head Coach Bruce Arena, David Beckham #23 and Associate Head Coach Dave Sarachan pose with the yet unmet goal of the Seattle Sounders

From Joe Roth to Adrian Hanauer to Sigi Schmid to players like Mike Fucito, Seattle Sounders FC has been quite clear about its goals for this year. Another US Open Cup title will not be enough. It is a consistent organizational chorus that started at the End of Year Business Meeting and is hinted at in most conversations about the upcoming season. Sigi and the coaching staff are planning preseason with the expressed goal of beating Santos Laguna. That game is the first step on a quest that could see the Sounders competing for up to five major trophies (including next year's CCL) in the 2012 calendar year (the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC are also in this group).

Interestingly enough. Seattle will not be the favorite for any trophy except for the one that they will defend for a fourth straight year. The US Open Cup #3attle defense must consider the Rave Green as favorites, as the team is built with depth in mind. It is a hallmark of a Hanauer-crafted team to make a long run in the national cup competition, and most fans would consider anything less than a sixth straight semifinal appearance to be a disappointment.

In those other trophies, though, Seattle will not be betting odds favorites. If Sounder at Heart staff was running futures bets, Seattle would not be any higher than third most likely to win, and in some cases lower. There isn't a huge overlap between the various trophies' schedules, so congestion won't be quite as big an issue as in years past.

For the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League, the favorites, even after the Galaxy added Edson Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas, while retaining the services of Leonardo, Juninho and David Beckham, are still Mexican sides Santos Laguna and Monterrey Rayados. With both Santos Laguna and the Galaxy in Seattle's side of the bracket, the quest for trophy No. 1 is the least likely, the least interesting to the non-diehard Sounders fans and yet is also the path for Seattle to make an appearance in the Club World Cup.

With a significantly unbalanced schedule in the MLS regular season, the Supporters' Shield loses its puritanical luster. It also reduces the chances that the Western Conference powerhouses (add Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas to the Seattle/LA pairing) nab the trophy. With favorable Eastern Conference schedules, strong 2011 seasons and decent offseasons, the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City should join the crowded favorites conversation for the third (ordered by date awarded) trophy contested on the year. While Seattle may be in that conversation, a futures bet would be in LA's favor again.

Even the elusive, and most mainstream of MLS' many trophies, MLS Cup sees Seattle again on the outside. The Sounders would not be ahead of teams like the Dynamo and Sporks (maybe even the Crew) just because getting out of the East will be easier than the West. That Southland team is again higher on the board than Seattle. LA could even get Omar Gonzalez back in time for spot duty in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and their much weaker backup keeper role for 2012 shouldn't be an issue for the playoffs.

A generally deep and strong roster should see the Seattle Sounders in a two to four slot in various power rankings, but the top down quest for more trophies than the club has won since it's 2007 Double in the USL will prove a tough test. Yes, there's an extremely long shot at five major trophies (plus the two rivalry cups, a conference title and a reserve league title) but even winning one would mean that the Sounders took four majors in four years, and, if that one is anything other than the US Open Cup, it would put Seattle in the MLS dynasty conversation with D.C. United, the Chicago Fire and the modern LA Galaxy.

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