Year founded: 2014, the Sounders themselves were in the USL and A-League from 1994 to 2008
Affiliation: Sounders FC 2 is owned and operated by Sounders FC, with a fan trust holding 20% of ownership.
2015 record, standing in conference: 13-12-3 +3 for 6th in West
2015 playoffs: Lost 2-nil to the 3 seed Colorado Switchbacks
Key additions: Jordan Schweitzer, Zach Mathers, Emir Alihodzic, Michael Nelson
Key departures: Almost everyone, only three players were retained from last year's squad (Amadou Sanyang, Myron Samuel, Carlos Patino). Andy Craven, Oalex Anderson and Tyler Miller are now with the first team. Other losses include Duncan McCormick (1st Academy player signed to S2), Pablo Rossi, Giuliano Frano, Sam Garza, Aaron Long and Nick Miele.
Projected/ideal starting XI: 4-3-3 that will often be filled with 1st team single game loanees.
Lyon; Remick, Alfaro, Nelson, Fisher; Mathers, Schweitzer, Alihodzic; Anderson, Mansaray, Samuel
Andy Craven should get significant time up top, as will Darwin Jones and Aaron Kovar. Those three and Anderson will trade starts/sub minutes based on whoever gets time with the first team.
The bench will be mostly Academy kids playing up.
Overview of team heading into season:
There is a lot of off-field drama surrounding S2. There are questions about the branding and how the team relates to its suburban audience. On top of that, the Sounders gave all of the money back to the Founders Club members, as the intended capital project is on indefinite hiatus while the entire organization evaluates whether or not they should stay at Starfire.
On the field, Ezra Hendrickson returns as the head coach. He is now joined by Junior Gonzalez as his assistant.spent last season as the U14 coach and Academy scout and was also a USA U17 assistant. That should help S2 in their developmental goal.
S2's projected frontline is probably the youngest in North American pro soccer. Mansaray is 19; Anderson is 20; Samuel is 23. But the rest of the squad is "older" for a USL side. It's mostly college graduates who will either be in MLS next year, playing on independent lower-division teams, or out of soccer. That's a strong motivation for success.
Why you should watch S2 in 2016:
This is the future of the organization. Garth Lagerwey talks a lot about vertical integration from U12s to MLS. For that to take place, S2 needs to be a spot where the Sounders develop talent, not just a place where they stash someone who is a fringe MLSer. That means getting younger, doing more soccer work and playing with the same shape, style and tactics as the first team.
3 Players to watch:
Victor Mansaray - Seattle's youngest HGP signing ever is in his second year as a pro, and only his first season outside of high school. He's been called up to the USA U20 team, and even played some U18 games with the Sounders Academy last Fall.
Jordan Schweitzer - the soccer smart HGP failed to catch on with the first team due to injury, can he continue to show the improvements that took him from long shot to pro while at the University of Denver?
Myron Samuel - Ezra tagged this Vincy Heat national teamer as the most likely to take the step up during the season. He will miss games during World Cup Qualification.
The 2016 season will be a success if...
S2 finds a way to develop more players into useful pieces for the first team. Two of the three that climbed the ladder so far were MLS draft picks and expected to be at the MLS level. Only Oalex comes as a pure outsider who developed. It will be especially important for S2 to bridge the gap from the Sounders Academy to its MLS side. While they've only had one direct signing, none of the successful Sounders HGPs have a history with S2.
All of Sounder at Heart's coverage of S2 can be found at The Future, our hub for all S2, Sounders U23s and Academy coverage. If you are on Twitter you should follow uber-fan Girvan, S2 Coach Hendrickson, and the Sounders 2 accounts.
S2's first match is at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila on Friday March 25th at 7:30 PM. They host the Sacramento Republic. The game will be streamed on SoundersFC.com.