Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Team by Any Other Name....

Yes!!! Seattle is finally getting a MLS franchise- only about, what, eleven years late? It would have been awesome if we had been in at the beginning, but we're here now and that's all that matters. At least it's coming. Now, one of the things that fans around here most want to know is "what will the new team be called?" There seem to be- no, there are two different camps on fans on this particular issue. The first group is of fans who don't care what the name will be and will show up regardless. The second group- of which I am a part- wants Seattle's soccer history to be recognized by naming the team "Sounders." (Also, the second group will show up to matches regardless of name- you can take my word on that!)

So, why name the team "Sounders?" Isn't that a minor league soccer team? Not originally. In 1974, the North American Soccer League saw the first action for the new Seattle team- the Sounders. Note: This is the same league Pele played in when he came to America (NY Cosmos)! Back then, the NASL was the First Division of American soccer (ok, and Canada, too). Plus, that original incarnation of the Sounders won conference championships twice- in 1977 and 1982, only to lose the Soccer Bowl each time to those NY Cosmos! I really believe that particular fact dispels any "minor league" status that might be attached to the name. (When had a link to send in suggestions for team names, it is rumored that 60-70% of the suggestions had something to do with "Sounders." People still remember thirty plus years later.)

But, why does it have any "minor-ness" to it at all? Because there is a Seattle team by that name playing in the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1), the Second Division of American soccer (yes! and Canada, too!) (I know, the Second Division is called the First Division, but that's something I won't be getting into here.)

I can understand the owner's concern. But, Mr. Adrian Hanauer, I would like to point out a little fact that many are not aware of: the Seattle USL-1 franchise was not always called the "Sounders." It was once called "FC Seattle" or something bland like that. Furthermore, they drew maybe 1,000 people on average. When the name was changed to "Sounders," attendance tripled. Tripled. People love and remember the NASL Sounders, a team that had a tradition of winning at the highest level.

Yeah, the USL-1 Sounders don't draw nearly as many people as the NASL Sounders did, but that's where the "minor-league" status affects things. Yeah, it is Mr. Hanauer's team to name, but it is our money to spend. Yeah, people will show up to Seattle MLS games regardless of the team name, but a vocal faction won't be too happy. But why ignore the history and tradition the "Sounders" name has already established? Why try to write new history when you can add on to the one already there? Different teams have been named "Seattle Sounders," but always the same name.

A team by any other not quite as sweet. (Remember the San Jose Clash?) History. Tradition. Sounders.