Elsewhere in the world, they would rightly be known and celebrated as champions. Week in, week out, the Seattle Reign and Sounders play not only some beautiful soccer in 2014 but leave a lot of beaten opponents along the road. They win some trophies, certainly. But in the end, they and their fans are left wanting.
For the record, the Reign and Sounders lift some hefty silver, but the officially recognized championship ware remains on the shelf for another year. One year removed from finishing second from bottom, the Reign are runaway winners of the NWSL Shield, going to the highest point total in the regular season. Somewhat similarly, the Sounders put a disastrous 2013 playoff exit behind them and clinch the MLS Supporters’ Shield before a huge home crowd on Matchday 34. Two months earlier, they achieve the first half of a traditional double, claiming their fourth U.S. Open Cup as well.
While the Sounders are stopped one stage short of reaching the MLS Cup final on an away goals tiebreaker, their trail to that point is impressive. The Rave average 1.9 points earned per match and score 1.9 goals per game, many of the latter are the culmination of creative combinations involving Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
A couple miles north, having moved from Starfire into Memorial Stadium, the Reign was no less entertaining. League MVP Kim Little and fellow all-league selection Naho Kawasumi spearheaded an attacking averaging 2.1 goals and a club which ran away from the table to finish 13 points ahead of runner-up Kansas City, who edged Seattle in the final.
Across Puget Sound, the Kitsap Pumas have a similar storyline. The semipro Pumas won the PDL Northwest Division but are beaten in the national final.
By year’s end, the Sounders announce formation of a second team which will join USL-PRO. S2 will replace the reserve team and play in the third tier of the U.S. pyramid at Starfire. Ezra Hendrickson, who coached the reserves for three seasons, will be S2 head coach.
For the first time since 2006 a Washington native appears in the FIFA World Cup. At age 20, DeAndre Yedlin, a homegrown Sounder, is fast-tracked by Jurgen Klinsmann. In February, Yedlin earns his first cap and less than four months later he joins Dempsey in the 23-man World Cup squad. Yedlin plays in three matches. Dempsey starts all four games and scores twice, including a strike 29 seconds into the group game vs. Ghana.