Behind the MLS Ambition Rankings: Seattle Sounders

How much money has your team spent in the past five years on youth development? How much in the past year?

Sounders FC has more than doubled its financial investment in player development in the last two years, punctuated by the signing of four Homegrown Players in that span (including 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year Jordan Morris).

How many homegrown players have you signed? How many have played in MLS league games for your first team?

Sounders FC has signed nine Homegrown Players in its history, including U.S. men's national team players Morris and DeAndre Yedlin. Six of those nine players have logged MLS minutes: Morris, Yedlin, Aaron Kovar, Vic Mansaray, Darwin Jones and Sean Okoli. Two others–Seyi Adekoya and Henry Wingo–were signed this past offseason and have not yet had the chance to play in MLS.

How many season-ticket holders do you have? How many did you have in 2016?

Sounders FC continues to lead MLS on the attendance front, having topped the league in average attendance every season in its history. 724,809 total fans attended Sounders matches at CenturyLink Field in 2016–nearly 200,000 fans more than the next-closest team. With a 2016 average attendance of 42,636, the club ranked second in the Americas amongst all reported professional clubs, keeping the Rave Green among the global top 30 in this category.

Where does your first team train? Did you build the training facility yourself? If so, how much did it cost?

Sounders FC trains at its Starfire Sports training complex in Tukwila, Washington. The facility pre-dates the club’s MLS launch, and the team has trained there since joining the league.

Did your team build its own stadium? If yes, how much money did the team spend on the stadium?

CenturyLink Field predates Sounders FC, but soccer played an integral role in the creation of the facility. CenturyLink has been the club’s home since its MLS inception.

Do you have a USL affiliate? How big is your budget this year for your USL team?

Sounders FC has more than doubled its financial investment in player development in the last two years, including the club’s USL side, S2. Following two seasons of USL play, six players have been signed to first team contracts from S2. 

How much money have you spent in the three previous years on Designated Players (transfer fees and salary)? How much are you spending on Designated Players this year?

Highlighted by last season’s addition of reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year Nicolas Lodeiro, Seattle has long been a destination for prominent Designated Players, including current forward and U.S. national team stalwart Clint Dempsey. Since 2009, Seattle has been home to 12 Designated Players.

How much TAM have you spent since its inception in the middle of 2015 (including this year)?

Sounders FC has used all of its existing TAM funds since the inception of that player acquisition mechanism. The club used TAM to sign Panama national team captain Roman Torres in 2015, in addition to retaining club captain and four-time MLS All-Star Osvaldo Alonso over the past two seasons.

How would you describe your investment in and use of data analytics? How many full-time analytics employees do you have?

Sounders FC is considered the standard-bearer in this area, led by High Performance Director Dave Tenney and five full-time sports science employees. The club’s sports science department was integral to the team’s 2016 MLS Cup efforts, and continues to help inform the scouting and player recruitment process. The club’s innovation in this space has been widely covered and continues to be a point of pride for the organization.

Who is your jersey sponsor? What’s your total income on sponsorships this season?

XBOX has been the club’s primary shirt sponsor since Sounders FC’s MLS launch, and a committed partner in a number of successful and unique activations.

Local TV deal: How many of your games this season are shown on local television? How much is your local TV deal worth per season? How big is your budget for presenting local TV broadcasts? Do your broadcasters travel on the road for local TV broadcasts?

Seattle offers perhaps the most comprehensive broadcast package of any club in MLS, and is one of the few remaining teams that travels television and radio productions to every non-nationally televised road contest.

Sounders FC is available throughout the region on free-to-air television via its partnership with Q13 FOX (and its affiliate JOEtv). Additionally, ROOT SPORTS is the out-of-market home of Sounders FC, delivering the club’s broadcasts to central and eastern Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. Additionally, a minimum of 10 matches air in Spanish on Univision-Seattle. The agreements with Q13 FOX and Univision-Seattle include various forms of shoulder programming throughout the season.

On the radio front, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM and El Rey 1360 AM are the English and Spanish-language homes of Sounders FC, respectively. Both radio affiliates carry weekly Sounders FC shoulder programs. A 60-minute Sounders FC-focused show airs on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM every Thursday evening throughout the season, with El Rey carrying a 30-minute weekly show–Somos Sounders FC–airing Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. PT.

How many front-office employees does your team have? How many have you added or subtracted in the past year?

Between the club’s Pioneer Square front office and its Starfire Sports technical staff, Sounders FC has over 100 full-time employees. Since moving business operations across Lake Washington from the Seahawks in April of 2014, the club has roughly doubled its headcount.

What other sorts of details should we know about your club that are a good barometer of the club’s ambition?  

On the heels of a defining moment in MLS Cup and the largest celebration in more than 40 years of Seattle soccer history, Sounders FC has been public about the club’s recently-formed vision for future success. Owner Adrian Hanauer addressed this club vision with The Seattle Times, while general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey discussed how the team’s soccer philosophy will support organizational growth in the years to come. 

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