Voting has officially opened on whether or not Garth Lagerwey should be retained as Seattle Sounders general manager. Ballots can be cast online or in person at polling stations during the next two home games. The vote will remain open until 5 PM on Sept. 28. The results will be announced at the Annual Business Meeting in November.
This is the second time Lagerwey has gone through this process and the third time Sounders fans have cast a vote on their GM. In 2012, 96% of ballots were cast in favor of retaining Adrian Hanauer, and 87% voted to retain Lagerwey in 2018. There were nearly 14,000 votes cast in 2012, when only 10,000 votes were needed in order to be binding. But that threshold was changed to 40% of all Alliance members ahead of the 2018 vote, a mark that fell just short at 37%. If there are about 32,000 season-tickets, that would require about 12,800 votes to be cast in order to be binding.
“Voting serves a critical role in our society, and it’s something that our club is passionate about promoting and providing further education for,” Sounders Owner & President of Business Operations Peter Tomozawa said in a team release. “While it’s not a local, state or federal election, the Sounders Ballot is still important for our Season Ticket Members. Democracy in Sports has long been a guiding principle of Sounders FC and this ballot gives those who support us most fervently the opportunity to make their voices heard in a way not offered anywhere else in American sports.”
The concept of the vote was one of the founding principles of the Sounders’ move to MLS, championed by minority owner Drew Carey. They remain the only professional team in North America who holds a binding vote on a sporting director.
All Alliance Members are eligible to vote. Alliance Members consist of all 2022 Sounders season-ticket members, suite holders, and designated seat partners. Accounts that hold more than one seat can have their extra votes allocated to other members. Seats that aren’t specifically allocated are added to the primary ticket-holder’s vote. For example, if an accounter holder has five seats and chooses not to allocate those votes to seatmates, their vote will count as five votes.
Despite the distinct possibility that the Sounders could miss the playoffs for the first time in their MLS history, it would be very surprising if Lagerwey were to be voted out. Under his tenure since 2015, the Sounders have won two MLS Cups (2016, ‘19) and a Concacaf Champions League title (2022). They’ve also qualified for four MLS Cup finals (2016, ‘17, ‘19, ‘20) and the Leagues Cup final (2021). The Sounders boast a 116-85-54 regular-season record, are 17-5-3 in the playoffs and have qualified for the postseason every year. In addition to his first-team success, Lagerwey oversaw the launching of a second team (currently called Tacoma Defiance) and modernization of the Sounders Academy (which has now won consecutive GA Cups).
Adding a bit of intrigue to this year’s vote is speculation around Lagerwey’s future. His contract with the Sounders is up at the end of this year, and Atlanta United has publicly expressed interest in interviewing him for their vacant team president position. Lagerwey has stated that he’d be interested in having a broader managerial mandate than he currently enjoys as the head of soccer operations with the Sounders, which could make the Atlanta job enticing.