Why the Seattle Sounders can change North American soccer forever on Wednesday

The Seattle Sounders host Mexican side Pumas UNAM in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m PT live on OneSoccer.

History is on the line when the Seattle Sounders take the pitch at Lumen Field on Wednesday night. Facing Pumas UNAM in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final, the Sounders have a chance to become the first MLS club to lift the trophy and qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup. 

MLS teams have been in this place before, yet the opportunity has slipped through their grasp. LAFC, Toronto FC, CF Montreal and Real Salt Lake have fallen short in the final since the Champions League tournament began in 2006. 

Still, none have had the same chance that Seattle does in 2022, and if the Pacific Northwest club lifts the trophy, the status of soccer in the United States and North America will be forever changed

Despite Champions League loss, Toronto FC's reputation keeps growing | CBC  Sports
Toronto in the 2018 Champions League Final (Getty Images)

In the first leg, Seattle did not start well, but a bit of luck in the way of VAR befell them, awarding the Sounders a pair of penalties in the final moments, allowing them to return home for the second leg at 2-2 on aggregate. 

In front of an expected record crowd of 65,000, Seattle can exorcise the demons that have cursed MLS and win the league’s first continental championship since the LA Galaxy won the Champions Cup over CD Olimpia in 2000. 

“It’d be really massive for our fans, and then I’d probably reach the next level and say it’s pretty cool for MLS; it’s finally happened,” Sounders manager Brian Schmetzer told MLSSoccer.com. “It’ll probably open the door for more success, I believe. I’m a firm believer that we’re getting closer. So, somebody has to do it.”

While it’s difficult for rival MLS supporters to cheer for Seattle, the impact of the Sounders winning the Champions League would be unparalleled to anything in North American men’s soccer since MLS’s launch in the wake of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. 

For a league that has set a goal of being considered  “one of the best in the world” and has pushed the league of choice mantra to the extremes, there has never been a more significant opportunity to establish itself on the global stage. 

When the dust settles, Seattle winning helps North American soccer establish further relevancy across the globe while also pushing past stereotypes in American sports fans’ minds. 

While Mexican clubs have led the charge for North American soccer, having an MLS team win the Champions League could ignite further interest in the continent’s most prominent sporting markets.

The moment is critical for a league fighting for global and domestic respect, and the Sounders have to seize it

If Seattle wins at home, they get a chance to take on the world’s best and to play amongst them. No, it won’t be a friendly at Lumen Field showcasing a foreign product; instead, a competitive tournament against global superpowers. While UEFA continues to dominate the Club World Cup, showcasing MLS and American soccer on the world stage is integral to the sport’s continued growth. 

In many ways, the Sounders breaking the barrier would be perfect, albeit a sight many opposing supporters would dread.

Since joining MLS  in 2009, the Sounders have dominated, qualifying for the playoffs every year, en route to 2 MLS Cup Championships, a Supporters Shield and 4 U.S. Open Cups. 

They’ve also regularly done it in front of 40,000+ supporters. 

Although Portland may dub itself “Soccer City USA,” Seattle has led the way in MLS’s groundbreaking success, even as the LA Galaxy ran rampant in the mid-2000s with David Beckham. 

Sounders FC wins 2019 MLS Cup with 3-1 win over Toronto FC | Seattle  Sounders
Seattle celebrates MLS Cup 2019 (Seattle Sounders)

In 2016, when the Sounders defeated Toronto to win their first MLS Cup, they did so on the back of goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the same man who leads them into Wednesday’s final — now the biggest match in club history.

“There’s very select few opportunities to make history,” he told reporters. “There’s still one, at least for MLS, and it’s going to be massive for your career, for the franchise, for everybody involved. What a massive opportunity.” 

Although the late Sigi Schmidt led the Sounders to that title, and there have been bumps in the road since then, that moment, with that group, brought them to where they are, with a chance to put MLS on the biggest stage ever. 

There is a different feeling about the Sounders compared to the four other MLS teams that have been in the Champions League Final.  While the others took it as a miracle run,  the Sounders have a swagger, borderline arrogance to them — they know they’re supposed to be here, but they also know they can win. 

When Wednesday’s match begins, nothing else matters. Not the past results, not the either team’s home nation, or even the historical relevance of the players’ on the pitch. But, if the Sounders lead when the final whistle sounds, North American soccer changes forever.

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