For a decade the Seattle Sounders had serious laurels upon which to rest. They redefined soccer in the United States. The huge crowds that gathered, the wins, the trophies, the individual awards — all were the greatest. Then Atlanta United came along. They rapidly chipped away at any measure of expansion greatness the Sounders could claim. Last night they crushed it.
Seattle no longer has a crowd in the top 10 of single game attendance in MLS. They were never the fastest to an MLS Cup, but averaging a major trophy more than every other year was significant, but a year two MLS Cup is better than the Open Cups. Plus Atlanta has tied the second best single season points total of all time.
Yes, Atlanta built their success off of Seattle’s success. Just as Seattle built their success on the back of Toronto FC, who looked to the Chicago Fire and D.C. United. The league continues to evolve. Their are disagreements about how to define the eras, but whether MLS 3.0 started with Atlanta or before it, they clearly own the current era.
Sun has set on certain ways to measure the Sounders versus the league.
That’s fine. It was always going to happen. Seattle is a mature soccer market. For several years the attendance numbers are essentially stable. Every person who covers the league should expect the Sounders to make the playoffs in 2019, and 2020, and 2021, and beyond. Good is our standard.
But there is more available. There are legendary clubs, dynasties in this league’s history. DC (launch), Fire (launch), and Galaxy (Landon/David/Robbie) all deserve that moniker. The Revolution never took a major title, but reside on the fringe of dynasty.
Seattle, Portland and Toronto now all do as well. Over the past four years these are the best teams in the league. Each have two appearances in MLS Cup. Each won an MLS Cup. Atlanta probably sits in that group as well. They don’t have four years of history, but denying their first two seems silly after their record-setting performances.
One of these teams could claim dynasty, claim destiny. Another win in MLS Cup would do that. A Supporters’ Shield would extend the window. There are trophies available. History is available.
So are thousands of seats in CenturyLink Field.
Ambition is available. Big clubs in MLS aren’t confined to big markets. Big clubs in MLS are confined to ambition. All four of these potential dynasties, potential SuperClubs™ aren’t in major media markets when defined by traditional sports metrics.
But each embraced their communities in ways that gave them power. Each is unique to a region and in being so manage to power the current era in MLS beyond what the Galaxy, LAFC, Red Bulls, Pigeons, Fire and Earthquakes can.
But it’s something that can be lost. The Galaxy, Fire and OG United all lost their panache.
Dynasty and era-defining swagger aren’t a tab earned that forever rests on the shoulder. It’s not a star to sit atop the crest. This is a state-of-being. You either have it, or you do not.
Atlanta United’s 2017-18 shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the Sounders, but a call to “climb higher.” It is time to reassert, to fill the empty seats and again have TV ratings that challenge a “major” sport within its own market.
It is time to make a run at a triple, something Seattle did just a few short years ago. It is time to go on a quest for glory. This is what the Five Stripes mean to the Sounders.
2019 starts now, and the destiny of dynasty should be the ambition.