Before the Sounders took the pitch Tuesday for what turned out to be a 3-1 win over Chivas Guadalajara, general manager Adrian Hanauer said that the club is rethinking its policy regarding international friendlies and the configuration of its season tickets for next season.
In Year I, the Sounders' 15 MLS games, two high-profile international friendlies and MLS Cup were well-received by most as a terrific season-ticket package. However, the lineup of Boca Juniors, Celtic and Chivas Guadalajara didn't go over near as well this season -- especially with another long run of U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League pushing the club's total competitions to 42 by the time the regular season ends.
On top of that, four more MLS games will be added next season, when Portland and Vancouver join the league.
In light of all that, and some supporters-group push back, I asked Hanauer what the club has learned from two seasons of scheduling:
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"For us it’s always been about how we deliver for our season-ticket holders," he said. "We’re hopefully always listening and always learning. We’ll make adjustments to how we think about a season ticket: The fact that we’re going from 15 to 17 regular season games at home will affect what we do with a season ticket. The fact that we are playing in Champions League again, and hope to make it further into the tournament will affect it. I think all things being equal I think maybe we’d choose not to have this October friendly. But at the same time, I still think – and I think the coaches believe – these extra games are really good for getting minutes for some of our players, and especially as we have a bigger roster. Hopefully in the future that makes it even more the case, that getting extra games is good."
Any decisions on next season?
"No conclusion yet, although we’re working on it, actually this week. But yes, we learn things and hope to deliver as much value in exactly the right areas as what our season-ticket holders are looking for next year as possible."
Putting aside the competitive issues, is going beyond an 18-game package going to become a cost problem for some fans?
"That’s absolutely something we’ve talked about. We understand that this is still a tough economy, so that’s certainly part of our equation. And also that we’re clearly in tune with and attentive to supply and demand. I think there’s a limit to how much supply we want to throw out there and jam down our season-ticket holders. These last two months, I think it’s just so many games that it’s hard on even the most rabid fans to be at every single game. We want each of our games to be special. Part of it was our own doing in that once the last two Champions League home games didn’t mean anything, it’s hard to know exactly what our fans are telling us about Champions League. They’re certainly telling us that if the games in Champions League are meaningless, there’s certainly less urgency to buy a ticket and come to the games. But yes, we are considering the fact that every time we add another game to the season-ticket package it’s (that much more money) that people have to take out of their pocketbooks."
Hanauer also said renewal notices for next season will probably go out within the next few weeks, and until they do, there is no real way to know what percentage of current season-ticket holders will renew. And until there is some indication of that, the club can't really make any decisions about whether to tweak capacity or the seating configuration for next season.