There will be no local streaming option when the Seattle Sounders host the Columbus Crew on Saturday, the team announced a little more than 24 hours before the game. That means the only legal options for watching the game locally will be in person, through a cable provider that carries JOEtv, or over-the-air on the channel with a digital antenna (it also appears as though the Locast app will work if you’re in the normal range of JOEtv). Many people in Western Washington will be able to find the game, but it will be virtually impossible to watch in the state outside the Seattle metro area. Sounders games are available on ESPN+, but they are blacked out inside the local broadcast region, which now includes most of Washington.
Seattle Sounders FC is currently engaged in high-level discussions to announce a new streaming partnership that will benefit our fans in a variety of impactful ways. Unfortunately, that process is not yet complete, and there is not an over-the-top streaming option for Saturday’s match versus Columbus Crew SC. We are fully aware of how important of an issue this is to our fan base, and we have every intention of announcing formal streaming plans as soon as possible. - club statement
Although sources have indicated to Sounder at Heart that the team is close to finalizing a deal with Amazon that would make games available throughout Washington at a relatively low cost and through at least the 2022 season, no clear timeline has been communicated for when those games would start appearing. (UPDATE: Sounders announced that deal on Aug. 18). Sounders President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa had previously suggested that if a streaming deal was not finalized in time for this game, the team was hoping to make it available on their website. It was not immediately clear when or why that option was taken off the table. Sources indicated the club is exploring other interim solutions, but none exist currently.
Prior to this season, the Sounders had used a variety of methods to get their games to those outside the region. Although the matches were often tape-delayed, Root Sports carried games throughout the state from 2009-2017. YouTube TV came onto the scene in 2018, servicing Spokane and Western Washington. Last year, YouTube TV became available for all of Western Washington. It wasn’t a perfect solution for Eastern Washington, but it at least offered an option while also making it easier for Seattle-area residents to watch games without a cable subscription. That relationship abruptly ended — with virtually no warning — at the end of the 2019 season.
Cord-cutting has become an increasingly popular option in the time since the Sounders first signed on with YouTube TV. One survey released in 2019 suggested that 64 percent of Washingtonians had already stopped using cable. While that estimate is likely high as it applies to the average household, it might not be too far off when it comes to looking at the Sounders relatively young and urban fanbase.
Making matters worse, at least for this game, is that state health officials have cautioned fans from attending large gatherings like sporting events to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and it’s entirely likely that a large number of fans will elect not to attend Saturday’s game in person.