The Seattle Sounders seem to be preparing for a potentially significant move into the Tacoma market. Not only will they play a Reserve League game against Orlando City SC at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium on May 12, but they are doing it for the express reason of testing the market for a potential USL-Pro team.
"Major League Soccer has embarked on an exciting partnership with the USL Pro," Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer said in a team release. "This is a great opportunity for the two leagues to unite for the development of soccer in this country. Sounders FC will eventually have an operating partner in the USL. The city of Tacoma would be a fantastic location for us, and this game will give us a chance to test the market."
Those are some pretty strong words, especially coming from a man who usually is very careful with what he says. In addition to this, the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers will host a "Sounders night" on July 25. The night will include a Sounders player throwing out the first pitch and the Rainiers wearing Rave Green jerseys, that will be auctioned off.
All of this seems to be lining up for a possible partnership with the Rainiers that could include shared ownership of a USL-Pro team, which would bring professional outdoor soccer to Tacoma for the first time since the Tacoma Tides played in the American Soccer League in 1976. Tacoma has also had a team in the semi-pro PDL since 2006 and that team has been affiliated with the Sounders since last season when the Tacoma Tide was rebranded as Sounders U-23s.
Tacoma does have a somewhat rich history of indoor soccer, though, as the Tacoma Stars were once one of the premier clubs in the original Major Indoor Soccer League. Alan Hinton once coached that team and Brian Schmetzer, Preki and Bob Lenarduzzi are among the former players.
"This is a great chance for Tacoma - and the greater South Sound - to show the Northwest how much we love soccer," said Aaron Artman, President of the Tacoma Rainiers, in the release. "The Sounders have done an incredible job rallying this entire region around soccer and their fan experience is the best in the business. We are thrilled to partner with them and look to showcase Cheney Stadium as a great soccer venue for this match and hopefully future matches in 2014 and beyond."