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Decades of Dominance: The Movement in Seattle

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Or, how children’s birthday parties helped build a soccer legacy in the Northwest.

MLS: Western Conference Championship-Houston Dynamo at Seattle Sounders Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Movement, now in its second season on MLSsoccer.com, is a video series that explores the growing soccer movement in North America, focusing much of its attention on the sense of community found around supporter groups and passionate fan bases throughout the league. Hosted by former MLS player, Calen Carr, The Movement strives to recognize and promote the values and vision that make MLS soccer unique in the culture of world football. The most recent episode features our beloved Seattle Sounders, and asks the question: Can the rest of MLS ever catch up to the Sounders?

Speaking on-air before Leg 2 of the Western Conference Final with KEXP morning show host and avid Sounders supporter, John Richards, Carr (a former Houston Dynamo) said, “I come in peace. Coming out here to do a profile on the Sounders, a little bit of a deep dive on the history of the club. Looking a little bit at the present, going for back to back MLS Cups, and also, what’s the future of Seattle soccer?”

In order to answer these questions, Carr interviews a number of current and former players. He shares a game of pool at Atlantic Crossing with former Sounder and notorious Timbers slayer Roger Levesque, where Levesque explains the origin of one the Sounders most iconic game day traditions. Seattle’s adopted son and University of Washington grad Christian Roldan takes Carr to the rivalry match between Seattle University and University of Washington in which Roldan’s brother is playing. The next day they sit together at the Starfire Sports complex and we learn a little more about Roldan’s first taste of Seattle and why he chose to go to school here.

The Movement reaches its most intimate moments during interviews with Lamar Neagle and Brian Schmetzer. A Federal Way native and a former Sounders ball boy, Lamar Neagle speaks about how soccer became such an integral part of his life.

“It was the most popular sport where I grew up,” he said. “In a lot of different areas it would have been basketball or football, but in the pocket of Federal Way that I grew up in, all the kids played soccer, and that’s how I got started. In elementary school, nobody played basketball or football. Everybody was on the soccer field.”

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

One of Neagle’s earliest experiences with professional soccer was as a fan of the Seattle SeaDogs of the Continental Indoor Soccer League.

“One of the players lived really close to us,” Neagle said. “We ended up training with him in his backyard, and so that’s how we got to know the local teams. Kind of draws you in a little bit more. You get a little bit closer to the game. You get a little bit closer to the club.”

Schmetzer was a part of the SeaDogs, as both a player and an assistant, at the time that Neagle was a fan. And like Neagle, Schmetzer’s experience with Seattle soccer also started with his admiration for the players on his local club.

“In ’74,” Schmetzer says in The Movement, “my family, we would go and watch the games at Memorial Stadium. Probably the best memory, though: One of my friends had a birthday party, and I don’t know how this happened, but one of my parents got some Sounders to come to our birthday party.”

His face lights up with joy as he adds, “We’re playing against the guys we’d watch on a Saturday afternoon, and that was so cool.”

Both Schmetzer and Neagle grew up to be a part of the club they once admired as children. Neagle even had the chance to be the Sounder player at a birthday party.

“There was a kid who came up to me,” Neagle said, “he was like, ‘Man, you were the first Sounder I ever met. I remember you came to a birthday party and we just got to play with you on the field, and he kind of paused and he was like, ‘Man, I’ll never forget that.’ It’s pretty crazy to think that you kind of affected somebody in that way.”

This connection between the fans and the players is what makes Seattle soccer so special.

“They’re part of it,” Schmetzer said. “They’re part of what we do. Why wouldn’t we be appreciative of what they do and what they bring every game?”

“When it comes to participation levels and passion for a sport,” Neagle adds, “I can’t really think of another place. Some places get hot when they first get a team, but to have the stability of the fan base and the passion in [Seattle] is something that hasn’t been hit yet.”

Schmetzer agrees. “We’ve had 40 plus years of growth,” he said, “where other markets have only had 20.”

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Calen Carr concludes The Movement by telling KEXP’s audience, “To me, [Seattle] is the model for soccer in this country. Everyone always compares the United States to England, not favorably for the most part. It’s always, ‘Oh, Europe’s better, England’s better. There’s more history.’ But Seattle’s the one place you can point to and say, hey, we may not have 100 years, but you look back 40, 50, 60 years, there’s a lot of people still here who helped grow the sport in the area. And then you have this whole new class of players. It’s entrenched in the culture. It’s entrenched in the history here, and it should be to a place where you can’t be a Seattle sports fan and not be a Sounders fan, and I feel like that’s the way it is now.”

Watch the full episode of The Movement here: