The record-low crowd that showed up for Seattle Sounders FC’s CONCACAF Champions League game on Thursday does not indicate that the region’s support for the club is lessening, general manager Adrian Hanauer said Friday.
He pointed to the expectation of more than 60,000 turning out Sunday for the Sounders’ MLS match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
“If we opened (the upper deck for L.A.) and nobody else was buying tickets or our season ticket base was eroding or something like that, I’d be concerned,” he said. “That said – I’ve said it before – the thing that gets me up in the morning – and I’m paranoid about every single minute of every single day – is the bloom coming off the rose. That’s what we have to be entirely focused on.”
The club announced Friday that ticket sales had topped 59,000 for the L.A. game, which is part of a four-game ticket package that also included the July friendly against Chelsea FC and the coming Cascadia Cup matches against Vancouver and Portland.
That huge crowd will build on the Sounders’ average of 39,537 per MLS home game, which leads the league for the fourth consecutive season.
Those numbers dwarf the midweek crowd of 7,767 that attended the Sounders’ 3-1 win over Caledonia AIA of Trinidad, which was the lowest attendance for an in-season match at CenturyLink Field in the MLS club’s four-season history.
Hanauer attributed that to a little-known opponent in a sometimes misunderstood tournament that determines the club champion of North American, Central America and the Caribbean.
“(Champions League) needs some TLC,” he said. “It’s confusing and foreign to our fans. … The early rounds are just going to be a real challenge. But the deeper we get into the tournament – especially if we start playing against Mexican teams or MLS teams – I think the tournament will increase in support.”
Hanauer noted that CONCACAF’s new general secretary, Enrique Sanz, has a marketing background that could help solve some of the challenges of the tournament.
One change Hanauer would like would be permission for the host club to play in something other than its usual home stadium.
“If it was me, and CONCACAF was letting us, we probably would have played these opening two games at Starfire and sold out and not even given you an excuse to ask (about empty seats),” he said. “But CONCACAF shut us down and did not let us play at Starfire. That’s a conversation we’re going to continue to have. Look, we’d rather have a sold-out Starfire – maybe even invest and build it into a larger facility – and have that atmosphere. So it’s an ongoing process for us.”
OPEN CUP ON TV
Another tournament that Hanauer said is in need of improvement is the U.S. Open Cup.
The Sounders will play for an unprecedented fourth straight Open Cup championship Wednesday at Sporting Kansas City.
However, the only way for local fans to see the game will be on the GolTV cable network, which last week was granted exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament final through 2014.
“It’s obviously out of our hands: That’s a U.S. Soccer decision,” Hanauer said. “I’m hopeful that it was a good decision for the long-term growth of the tournament. Obviously, Gol has less exposure than a Fox or ESPN, but we do have to face some realities about where the tournament is in the evolution. Clearly ESPN isn’t jumping forward with massive rights fees for our tournament at this point.”
He added that the club will organize viewing parties to try to make the game more easily available to more email@example.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt