With the announcement of the all-new Seattle Sounders FC 2 there are a lot of questions. Some of them have clear answers now, and other questions cannot be answered until circumstances force the issue. This FAQ will attempt to explain everything you need to know as of today.
What is Sounders 2?
It is a team in USL PRO, the United States' third division. That level of play is the lowest level that is fully professional. New addition to MLS Orlando City SC operated in USL PRO for the past few years.
USL, like the league that Sounders won in 2005 and 2007?
Kind of. Seattle won the '05 & '07 championship while playing in USL-1, back when it was the second division in the US, Canada and tops in Puerto Rico. After Seattle joined MLS there were a series of political moves. A few teams broke off and formed the new NASL, becoming the 2nd division. The remaining USL combined their two pro-leagues and are now the third division. USL PRO has an operating arrangement with MLS. In 2015 every MLS team will either operate a team within the lower division or affiliate with a team. This is replacing the Reserve League.
How many teams are in USL PRO?
Right now the answer is expected to be 21. Five of those are owned/operated by MLS teams (Seattle, Portland, Montreal, Salt Lake, and Los Angeles) and Vancouver has said they'll operate a team but don't have a stadium yet. Two new teams are replacing sides that left to other leagues. Louisville City replaces Orlando City and will be their affiliate. The Charlotte Eagles went down to the amateur PDL and are replaced by the Charlotte Independence. The Colorado Rapids will affiliate with the Independence, despite one of the new non-MLS owned teams being right in their backyard. Colorado Springs Switchbacks are one of four expansion teams. The Austin Aztex rejoin professional soccer in 2015, while the Tulsa Roughnecks and St. Louis FC round out the new sides. Sacramento Republic lead the teams continuing from 2014. The rest of that bunch are Arizona United, Charleston Battery (*), Dayton Dutch Lions, Harrisburg City Islanders (*), Oklahoma City Energy, Orange County Blues, Pittsburgh Riverhounds (*), Richmond Kickers (*), Rochester Rhinos (*) and Willmington Hammerheads (*). Six of those (*) are familiar to old A-League and USL-1 Sounders fans.
Who plays for Sounders 2?
No one, yet. The roster will be a mix of Homegrown Players, direct to Sounders 2 signings, players loaned down from the First Team and gameday call-ups of Academy Players (they will maintain NCAA eligibility). Some of the Homegrown Players may be signed directly to Sounders 2 while others would be signed as MLS players and loaned down. That will be addressed on a case-by-case basis dependent on the player's skill level and determination to go pro as quickly as possible. Expect the first signings in November at the earliest.
There is no hard salary cap in USL PRO, but it is a clearly lower division and spending absurd money to win the 3rd division title doesn't make sense. This is a developmental tool for Sounders 2. Many of the roster rules and how they relate to MLS will not be clear until the CBA is signed. Sounders 2 won't, for instance, be able to sign a Designated Player and "loan" him to MLS in order to circumvent the salary cap or roster rules.
Surely they must have a coach?
Nope, not yet. That announcement should also come in November. Expect the Sounders 2 coach to be an expert on player development. A solid majority of the players will likely be 23 or younger.
Does that mean they don't plan on winning?
The LA Galaxy II proved that a very young team can finish well in this league. They lost to the champions in the semifinals after taking third in the regular season. The key to competing will be four fold - how good are the direct to S2 signings, how good are the loanees from Sounders FC, were the right players signed to HGP deals and can S2 gain home field advantage at Starfire like Sounders FC does in US Open Cup play.
Remember when expansion teams in MLS weren't supposed to win? Seattle changed that and they almost certainly intend to win games, get strong crowds at the level, develop talent and empower fans.
So, they're playing at Starfire, how's that work?
S2 will play every home match at Starfire Sports. Currently some new locker room space is under construction. The club announced there will be some changes regarding food and beer service. The new Sounders Community Trust is helping fund a major capital project that will add more space for Sounders FC/Sounders 2, as well as fan amenities while freeing up space for youth and adult amateur clubs within the main building.
What is the Sounders Community Trust?
The SCT owns 20% of the club and is a non-profit organization that will fund a capital project as well as work to support the needs of South King County and Seattle area youth soccer. Membership will have a series of benefits. These will include influence on the direction of S2, access to a club within the new building, ownership of a pro soccer team and other things as it develops. No other pro soccer team in the United States gives this much power to its fans.
How much will membership cost?
To be a Founder's Club member it is $250. You can find details at the SCT website. They will also offer corporate and non-profit memberships. Contact them for more information. Purchases for the general public will be handled by SoundersFC.com.
You haven't mentioned Supporters or ECS yet. Are they on board?
Emerald City Supporters made a substantial investment in the SCT. That investment was large enough that they will have one person on the SCT Board of Directors at launch. ECS also set-up an internal organization that will do everything that ECS does for the First Team, but on a smaller scale. Shawn Wheeler (former chapter head of American Outlaws Seattle) will be leading that group. Everything about the atmosphere they have in the Brougham End will exist at Starfire, just a bit smaller. ECS will also sell SCT membership directly to ECS members. Visit WeAreECS.com for details.
I'm excited! How do I get tickets?
For the first few weeks tickets will only be available through membership in the Sounders Community Trust. Those season tickets will be at a discount. After that period is over tickets will be available to everyone. The prices will be even lower than prices for Sounders FC Open Cup matches at Starfire. Season Tickets will be along the membership concept. If the team is playing competitive games (14-18 league games, Open Cup, Playoffs) and you are a season ticket member, you get into the stadium.