Over 65,000 fans will turn out for a a regular season MLS match in Seattle on Sunday. Big crowds are the norm in Seattle and those sort of raucous atmospheres are what have made Seattle a model city for soccer in North America.
Those big crowds are turning out for the Sounders, who also have a loosely affiliated women’s team (different owners, same name and look) that garnered significant attention by signing top U.S. women’s national team stars Alex Morgan, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux.
The attention — and the crowds — the Sounders Women obtained were incredible for an amateur USL W-League team, so naturally any sort of new professional league has to look toward the Sounders as a cornerstone member of the league, right?
Not so fast.
In August we learned of a the prospective new league’s ambitions on the eve of the Olympic gold medal match, and shortly thereafter it became clear that the proposed team in Seattle had nothing to do with the Sounders Women. Bill Predmore, president of the digital agency POP, was the man leading the charge in Seattle.
“We had a lot of respect for what the Sounders did this year,” he said on August 9. “They were a dream team in terms of the team they put together. I have talked to them on if there’s a way we can work together on things, but the result of that is still to be determined. We’re talking with all interested parties.”
Flip to the other side of the puzzle for a minute: Amy Carnell was the GM of the Sounders Women and architect of that star-studded 2012 squad, but she is not affiliated with the club anymore.
“I am no longer with the Sounders Women,” she said in an email on Friday. “I am however a true believer and as passionate as ever about growing the women’s game in this country. I am currently working with an owner here in Seattle that believes in the game as much as I do.”
It doesn’t take much detective work to put together who the new owner could be, given previously released information. But as Jeremiah Oshan points out, there have been rumblings recently that after initially being uninterested in the new professional league, the Sounders Women are rumored to now want in. That makes sense given U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati’s comments on Friday, which noted that USL will be involved in the new league and that there are 11 potential ownership groups in 10 markets.
Naturally, the first question is, ‘In which city are there two groups interested?’ All signs certainly point to Seattle.
So what will happen in that enthusiastic Pacific Northwest city? Having two teams in Seattle frankly makes no sense, and on the surface it seems silly not to draw off the massive success of the MLS Sounders (which the Sounders Women managed to do in 2012).
But Carnell’s departure from the Sounders Women and belief that the grass is greener on the other side in Seattle suggests that perhaps this won’t be a joint effort between the two prospective groups.
Just to sweeten the pot, the Sounders Women have called a press conference for Tuesday with co-owner Lane Smith “to answer questions regarding women’s professional soccer in the United States, the Sounders Women stance and situation within that process, and organizational developments within the Sounders Women.”
The Sounders Women did not respond to a Friday night email inquiring about the situation, though Tuesday could provide some answers. Predmore and Carnell could not discuss any developments of the new league (nor can anyone other than Gulati at this point, frankly).
Things are getting interesting in Seattle, which is undoubtedly a critical piece of the puzzle in the women’s professional soccer landscape due to its leadership in developing American soccer culture.