You remember that movie Sleepless in Seattle? I kind of do, but only vaguely because I was 11 when it came out on VHS* and was bribed into watching it at my parents' friends' house while they ate dinner at the "Adult Table."
(*VHS...now THAT makes me feel old.)
Now mind you, I was still a couple years from adolescence, which is about the time I started developing an appreciation for the chick flick. So no, I didn't care whether Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks got together or not.
Wait a minute. Where was I going with this?
Oh yeah, so anyway, I think of that movie everytime I hear about Thursday's First Kick matchup at Qwest Field. Which is to say I now have bits and pieces of that movie floating in my mind on a regular basis. It's like mental self-mutilation now that I think about it.
Although I have no connections whatsoever to the city of Seattle, other than my new Facebook friend buddy Dave Clark's from there, I am definitely psyched/pumped/jacked/borderline unstable for it. In fact, I contemplated posting this entirely in CAPS, with lots of !!!!'s, :)'s, :-0's, :-D's, and other crazy emoticons and incoherent symbols. Lucky for you, I'm took the liberty of writing this post with fresh Xanax coursing through my blood.
When we talk about expansion, we often try to gauge how worthy a market. It's often done using such sensible pieces of data like public funding, ownership structure, long-term projections, and the attendance figures from those crazy soccer parties/pep rallies where a bunch of club-less fans all get together and cheer and scream and shout and push all for the possibility of earning an MLS club in their neck of the woods. And that's cool. I don't belittle that kind of stuff. I'm not a hater. I'd do the same. I mean, if I had to.
But that's latter criteria is just a party. How do we know that level of enthusiasm will translate to season tickets, sold out crowds and neon green kits? We don't. We just don't. We have forecast of what may happen based on how deserving a market is for professional soccer. And it helps, yeah. But it's nothing close to certain. Which is why Seattle's successful bid was such a masterstroke for everyone involved - because it seemed like an absolute certainty that Seattle would embrace top-flight soccer.
But is it surprising? Was it surprising that Seattle wooed MLS to it's corner of the country? Not really. What's amazing is that it took this long. I mean, just look at Seattle's history with soccer.
The NASL Sounders often drew close to 25,000 back in the day, even without a Pele, Beckenbauer or Cruyff to brag about. They had a pretty good team that even went toe-to-toe with the Cosmos and their aforementioned stars during the 1977 Soccer Bowl. Even after the NASL club folded, attempts to revive it always remained. The club, not the NASL, although if it took reviving the NASL to bring back the Sounders, I'm sure Seattle would have found a way.
Although my history may not be precise, I believe there were other incarnations in the 80s and early 90s before Wikipedia acknowledges that the USL version started up in 1994. Even though there were different owners, players and coaches, the Sounders name pretty much remained.
And it's the power of that name that I think just sets the table for everything else. When Seattle was finally granted a franchise, it HAD to be the Sounders. It wasn't even a question. It's the tie that binds the rich past, exciting present, and promising future of soccer in Seattle.
The volume of kids and adults, men and women all rallying feverishly behind a soccer club in the United States is a momentous step forward for MLS, and for U.S. Soccer. The club has seduced more than 20,000 into season tickets, and many thousands more to single-matches. And MLS has responded, not only awarding Starbucksland it's 2009 premiere showcase, but the MLS Cup Championship match as well.
And you know what? It's deserved for everyone. The fans, the players, the front office, the League, but not necessarily Meg Ryan. Or Tom Hanks. Poseurs.