Seattle Sounders Helping Make Soccer A ‘Major’ Sport In America

The Seattle Sounders look to the casual observer like they might belong anywhere but the United States of America.

Games are a rowdy affair, with fans filling CenturyLink Field by the tens of thousand to sing songs and cheer on their team. The atmosphere seems like it would be at home in England or South America, but instead is taking place in a new bastion of soccer — the Pacific Northwest.

“Once you go to a game in Seattle — you could be in London, you could be in Germany — the environment here just blows you away,” said Ted Smith, co-host of TheMen’s Room on 99.9 FM KISW in Seattle.

The Seattle Sounders are at the epicenter of the American soccer boom, where the MLS has taken root with a growing set of rabid fans. Though soccer remains a niche sport across the rest of America — solidly behind the major sports of football, baseball, and basketball as well as more regional interests like hockey and NASCAR — the Seattle Sounders are proof that it is successful at least in some places.

The UK, where soccer (known there as football) is king, has taken notice. The BBC wrote:

The crucible of the region’s football awakening is Seattle, where attending a game at the city’s modern CenturyLink Field stadium is rapidly becoming an essential Pacific Northwest experience. Pass through Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighbourhood on a Saturday between March and October and you will be swept up by a good-natured and ebullient mood that is more characteristic of a street festival than a 90-minute spectator sport.

The report noted that Seattle’s rise has reflected an overall growth for the MLS following a 2007 rule change that allowed for more foreign players. David Beckham then moved to the LA Galaxy, the league’s biggest coup.

But the Seattle Sounders have more to offer than their MLS counterparts, including pre-match entertainment, and savvy fans who use social media to arrange meet ups at local pubs and parks.

“Singing for 90 minutes and chanting and never stopping and continuing, showing that vocal passion, is a very English style of support,” said Aaron Reed, co-host of the Emerald City Supporters, which supports the Sounders.

The Seattle Sounders are doing their part to bring in fans. The team is currently in first place in the MLS.