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What’s new for Sounders off the field in 2023

There have been a lot of changes since the Sounders last MLS game in October.

The Sounders ended their 2022 season four and a half months ago. If that was the last time you tuned into Sounders media, things will look a lot different as the Sounders look to begin their 2023 season. Let us get you caught up with some of the off-the-field changes you’ll want to know about to follow your favorite team in 2023:

Apple TV

In 2022, you might have found the Sounders on FOX 13+, ESPN, ABC, FS1, FOX, Amazon Prime, or ESPN+. That is no longer the case. All MLS games will now be on Apple TV (with some games also being shown on various Fox channels). To see all of the games, you will need to get MLS Season Pass. That will be free if you are a season ticket holder, or if you have T-Mobile or are watching at your local bar. Otherwise, it’s $15/month or $99/year or $12/month or $79/year with AppleTV+.

However, around 40% of all MLS games (and possibly even more Sounders games) will be available for free to anyone who creates an Apple ID account. The TV product will feel quite different as well. Instead of a broadcast produced locally, all MLS games will be produced centrally (similar to how the NFL is produced). This means that the games won’t feature hometown announcers, but Apple TV and MLS have invested a lot into producing a consistent and high-quality product. Given the very short timeline in putting together the network, however, we may expect some early snafus.

Local broadcasts

If you really want the home broadcaster feel, every Sounders game will still be on the radio and produced locally on KJR 950 AM. When the Sounders are the home team, that radio feed will even be available to use as alternate audio on the Season Pass stream. The original plan was for the away team’s radio feed to also be available, but technical issues have shelved that for now.

There are some big changes to the local broadcast team. Most obvious is former USL Sounder Danny Jackson taking over play-by-play duties from Keith Costigan and Steve Zakuani serving as the primary color commentator in place of Kasey Keller. Costigan has joined the MLS Season Pass team, while Keller remains fulltime at ESPN where he’s doing mostly La Liga and Bundesliga matches.

Front Office Turnover

In 2022, management of the Sounders was split between Garth Lagerwey, General Manager and President of Soccer and Peter Tomozawa, President of Business Operations. Since then, both men left for bigger jobs in the offseason. Garth Lagerwey is now the President and CEO of Atlanta United, while Peter Tomozawa is now the CEO of SEA 2026, the organization in charge of preparing Seattle to host the 2026 World Cup.

The new General Manager and Chief Soccer Officer is Craig Waibel, a promotion from within, where he previously served as the Sporting Director for Sounders FC. Meanwhile, the new President of Business Operations is Hugh Weber, a man with significant experience presiding over NHL and NBA organizations, but with personal ties to Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer, which seems to have had a major role in bringing Weber to the Sounders.

Bruce Lee Kit

The 2023 Sounders Community Kit was recently announced, replacing the extremely popular Jimi Hendrix kit. The new jersey commemorates Seattle icon Bruce Lee, and seems to be another popular design, outselling the Hendrix jersey in its comparable first 24 hours. The kit uses Lee’s red, black and yellow colors and has a dragon design focusing on the scales and body, with other details, like Bruce Lee’s signature on the jock tag and use of the “core symbol” design on the back of the neck.

Providence Sponsorship

Speaking of the new Sounders kits, the front of the jerseys have changed as well. Zulily is no longer the kit sponsor, replaced by Providence. Providence has reportedly offered a 10-year deal worth close to $100 million and is also the official health provider throughout the Sounders organization. In addition, Providence and Sounders FC are partnering on an expansive youth mental health program within the Renton School District.

However, to say that the new Providence sponsorship is controversial is an understatement. Both the Emerald City Supporters and the Sounders Alliance Council put out statements expressing concern over the decision. Sounder at Heart put out a recent FAQ discussing the various concerns about the Sounders choosing to make Providence their kit sponsor.

Return Ticket Program

In 2022, the Sounders implemented a new Return Ticket Program for season-ticket holders. Many used the program, but it had a lot of serious flaws, including a very limited option of what to use your return credit for as well as requiring returns 10 days in advance.

The 2023 version of the Return Ticket Program has significant improvements. You can return tickets up to noon PT of the day before the game. You can also not only use return ticket credit to buy tickets for other Sounders matches, you can apply your ticket credit to 2024 season-ticket renewals. The biggest caveats are that you can only return tickets in 7 of your 17 games, and each game has a different value. For example, one ticket might be worth $18 in return credit for a midweek game against San Jose, while the doubleheader against Portland is worth $41 in return credit.

Student Discount Program

What started as a ad hoc program introduced at midseason is now a full fledged program from Sounders FC to support #SoccerForAll. Each game, there will be 100 tickets available to students only on matchday for $19.74. This program was underutilized last year, so students of any age hoping to pick up tickets with a student ID will probably succeed at most games.

Lumen Field Changes

Lumen Field underwent some major changes at the end of 2022 season in preparation for the recently completed Seahawks season. While Sounders fans experienced some of these upgrades in the last months of the season, others will look brand new for 2023.

The most notable upgrades are the two giant video screens (40’ x 70’) installed at the North end of the stadium. There are also two new Cityside bars located under the Hawk’s Nest at the North side of the stadium with 83 feet of drink rails facing the field. Finally, the District Markets, located at sections 104, 105 and 123 now use Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology. Instead of waiting in line to purchase items, users will scan their payment method, walk in, take whatever they want to buy and leave while Big Brother charges their credit card behind the scenes.

Earlier this week we had a story detailing everything you need to know about the on-field product.

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