The Seattle Sounders held their Annual Business Meeting — belatedly — Tuesday night from their headquarters in Pioneer Square via video conference call. With the Sounders winning — and celebrating — their second MLS Cup championship, previous plans to hold the event in a larger venue to accommodate media and fans had to be scrapped. Thus interested parties were left to listen to a live stream, or telephone.
The event itself was a fairly subdued affair; it was attended by Sounders president of business operations Peter Tomozawa, General Mananger and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey, Chief Operating Officer Bart Wiley, Sounders Alliance Council members Martin Buckley and Alex Eagleton, with Sounders General Counsel Maya Mendoza-Exstrom making a cameo appearance. Here are some of the highlights:
Sounders sensitive to criticism
If there was one prevailing theme from the business meeting, it was the defensiveness on display from the group to the criticism regarding the lack of an in-person event which could be attended by interested parties. Each of the panelists took turns discussing — and repeating — reasons why the business meeting was relegated to a video conference call. The defense bordered on the absurd when Sounders Alliance President Martin Buckley called the online criticism from those unhappy with the situation, “dangerous.” Having already addressed the situation as a group once, the panel then went back to this particular well later to address it again, taking up time which could have been used to answer other questions.
That said, all parties indicated they realized this event was not good enough. The Sounders front office, perhaps chastened by the criticism, vowed to return the Annual Business Meeting to its previous stature, and put on an event in an appropriate venue going forward. It appears the the schedule for the event will announced in advance as well.
The Sounders Front office quite correctly touted the on-field success this year, which included capturing another Cascadia Cup as well as the team’s second MLS Cup title, hosted in front of 69,274 fans at CenturyLink Field. Wiley and Tomozawa were particularly proud of their work with MLS to ensure that tickets were affordable for season-ticket holders, whom they indicated were important to take care of for their years of loyalty. While they likely could have charged significantly more if they’d put more tickets out on the open market, both said that doing right by their customers was more important long-term.
Hot Stove League is Ice Cold
The offseason is off to a slow start, according to Lagerwey. The primary reason: the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on Jan. 31, 2020. Asked about how hopeful the team is that a deal gets done, Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer declined to elaborate on the status of negotiations (other sources indicate that a deal isn’t close). Without a CBA, it’s difficult to properly budget for new additions, which means it could be some time before any high-profile players make their way to Seattle.
Another Frustrating Summer?
Assuming the season starts on time, Lagerwey seemed to warn that the team could experience some issues during the summer months when the international window takes important players away for duty. Lagerwey noted that the 2020 Euros will likely see Gustav Svennson away from the team, while the Copa America could cost the Sounders the services of Raul Ruidiaz, Xavier Arreaga and Nico Lodeiro, among others. Given those losses, Lagerwey indicated that it will give younger players a chance to impress, but even if the results aren’t there, the team won’t panic over a bad run of form.
Tacoma Stadium is On Track
Again, there wasn’t much of an update on the progress of the proposed stadium which would house the Tacoma Defiance and Reign FC, except to say that things are moving — albeit slowly — according to Mendoza-Exstrom. The team completed the feasibility study over the summer, and has been in negotiations with local officials since. Starting in 2020, the Sounders expect those negotiations to move into a more “public phase,” according to Mendoza-Exstrom. That would presumably mean a proposed master lease and funding mechanisms, along with public comment. What that means for the construction timeline is unclear at this point.
Don’t expect 2020 jerseys to go on sale any time soon
While the Sounders are excited about the new 2020 home kits, they weren’t prepared to say when they’d be available for sale. Typically, the new kits aren’t even revealed until late January at the earliest. In response to a question about the jerseys being on sale for the holiday season, Wiley demurred, meaning you can fill that stocking with something else.
No Mor Chicken
Reports that MLS was on the verge of a national partnership with national chain Chik-fil-A was met with less than a lukewarm reaction by MLS fans in general and Sounders fans in particular. Known for donating to causes antithetical to the ethos of the Sounders, it appears that the Georgia-based company won’t be appearing inside CenturyLink any time soon, according to Buckley.
- As with previous meetings, there were questions about concessions and friendlies. In response to a question about limited concession options vis-a-vis the availability at Seahawks games, Wiley said the expected attendance of the team has some impact on what vendors choose to open for games.
- The season ticket package for 2020 will include 18 games — 17 MLS games and one other match, presumably the Concacaf Champions League game. That tournament is supposed to start Feb. 19-20. Additionally, the Sounders will host the Campones Cup versus the Champion of Liga MX.
- The Hawks’ Nest will likely remain mostly closed for 2020, according to Wiley. Primera, the team’s “presenting” sponsor, inked a deal for signage in that area. If demand warrants, the Sounders indicated they might revisit opening that section.
- While replica winners medals aren’t something the Sounders are considering making available to the general public, Wiley did say that replica rings are on the table. Similar championship rings were distributed after the 2016 MLS Cup win.
- The Sounders were happy with the reception for the return of Sammy the Sounder, and noted that the mascot was not located near the field. That restriction will continue.
- It sounds like the Sounders have some interesting things planned for opening day of the 2020 season, though Tomozawa wouldn’t elaborate except to say that fans should attend.