Barack Obama takes office as the first Black U.S. President. After a bird strike during takeoff, Sully Sullenberger successfully ditches a US Airways jetliner into New York City’s Hudson River with all 155 on surviving. Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, dies of cardiac arrest at age 50. Locally, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer publishes its final print edition. Sound Transit’s Link light rail line carries its first passengers between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. Boeing’s 787, with an airframe made of composite materials, takes flight. Washington wins the Pac-10 men’s basketball regular season.
A dream come true, only bigger and more magical than anyone could’ve imagined. In its first season, the Seattle Sounders FC proved to be fantasy futbol in the flesh. Eye-popping achievements all around, from the field to the fans to the club’s community outreach. Everything and everyone the Sounders touched seemingly turned to rave green. And green is good.
Proof of that success is found everywhere. A championship banner hangs from the Qwest Field rafters and a trophy sits in the team offices. Led by a 53-piece marching band, fans flooded the streets of Pioneer Square for the March to the Match and then filed into the stadium, filling every seat for each and every home MLS match–16 consecutive sell-outs.
The collective passion of this club and its supporters is clearly evident from afar: the pulsating, scarf-waving sea of green is a sight to behold, and to hear the roar firsthand can send shivers up the spine. American soccer has never seen or felt anything like it.
Soccer had long ago taken root in the community and its first pro team, the Sounders of the NASL, had been enthusiastically supported. Later, the proponents of the sport helped push through an initiative to build a world-class venue, Qwest Field.
By 2009, the hunger for an MLS team was ravenous. Season tickets were capped at 22,000 and twice capacity was increased to accommodate demand. The club didn’t need glitz or added incentive, the community’s appetite for soccer was authentic. The kids who had tagged along with parents and coaches to the Kingdome were now parents and coaches themselves.
On the field, Sounders FC shot off the mark, becoming the first expansion team to win its first three games, and it did so without allowing a goal. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid delivered to the fans an XI which was instantly cohesive, fearless and attack-minded.
Whereas the USL Sounders had made several deep runs into the U.S. Open Cup, their MLS successors finished the job. Seattle won six straight knockout matches, the last in the nation’s capital, where the Sounders wrested the cup from holders D.C. United, 2-1.
The Sounders were not the only new club to open. Across Puget Sound, in Bremerton, the Kitsap Pumas debuted in the Premier Development League, joining Seattle Wolves, Spokane Spiders, Tacoma Tide and Yakima Reds in the Northwest Division.