One of the intriguing aspects regarding the launch of Sounders 2 is that fans can own part of the team. The Emerald City Supporters used a significant amount of funds and are a major investor in the Sounders Community Trust. This means that ECS owns a portion of Sounders 2. This is something that many supporter groups in the United States want, but only one will have with a pro soccer team they support. ECS and S2 are hosting an event after the main press conference where they will make more details public, but this is what Sounder at Heart knows now.
ECS will have a member on the initial SCT board. That member, Shawn Wheeler, is the former head of American Outlaws Seattle, a current member of ECS's leadership group and will lead what in essence is ECS2. They will do everything that they do for the First Team, just on a smaller scale.
While the exact amount of money ECS put in remains unclear, Wheeler gave some insight to Sounder at Heart via email: "Our financials aren't really something we share publicly, but it should be noted we're entrusted with making a few significant away match purchases several times a year on behalf of our members. Our share of S2 is a significant financial and time investment on behalf of the entire Emerald City Supporters organization, and will be treated as such."
Owning a portion of the new team will provide a bit of motivation to lift turnout closer to the level of USOC matches, rather than the dozen or so that show for the old Reserve League games or the handful that go to Academy matches.
Wheeler explains some of the causes for the expanded support: "There are likely a few reasons why things weren't done more consistently in the past. What's important today is that Sounders 2 is providing a well-organized presence in USL PRO, and it's driven me to personally be involved. Additionally, the club is taking things a lot more seriously than we've experienced previously with non-first team activities when it comes to marketing, and we think fans are going to feel more connected with this club. Beyond that, the ownership stake is a significant point of pride for ECS, as it shows a newfound level of commitment to fan and supporter engagement."
When Starfire is packed it is a fortress for Sounders FC. The way the tiny stadium sits right up on the field with the hill on the other side and the massive old-growth trees on the rail end -- sound builds in waves. If Sounders 2 and ECS 2 get crowds similar to the Open Cup it will become an event that people must attend.
It will not be easy to get those crowds though. It's one thing to get 4,000 for three to five First Team matches. It's another thing entirely to get 4,000 for 14-18 Second Team games. A large part of the appeal is not just ownership, but The Future: the next Yedlin, the next Neagle, the next Kovar, the next Okoli, the next Weaver, the next Hahnemann, the next Emerald City Supporter.
"My primary goal for the ECS support of Sounders 2 is to provide the same style of support for that team that the MLS team experiences week in and week out," Wheeler said. "No one expects the size of the group to be the same as an MLS match at RBP, but this is an exciting opportunity to show our support of the club from top to bottom. It's also a chance to see the future of this club, to understand how they play as individuals and see how they link up with each other. The next round of stars to play in RBP will be playing at Starfire, fighting for us and we'll be there to sing for them."
ECS will be celebrating their new ownership in the team through the Sounders Community Trust at FUEL beats and sports at 5 PM tonight.