Major League Soccer is still a very young league in the general context of sports. It is trailing behind most major leagues around the world by 50-100 years of history, which is currently multiple times the length of its own existence.
So when I told a friend I was reading "Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece: The Inside Story Of The Best Franchise Launch In American Sports History" it shouldn't have come as a surprise that the response was that there shouldn't be books about MLS yet because MLS is too young to have the history.
That's a fair point, especially when considering the book is about the Seattle Sounders, which have been in MLS for less than 10 years. However, the story that author Mike Gastineau tells isn't about some great legacy the Sounders have built in only a handful of years. The story is about the team's creation and doesn't really have anything to do with how much history the franchise does or does not have.
Things start a bit slow with maybe more backstory than is needed, but things get interesting when Gastineau retells how soccer helped push across the stadium vote for CenturyLink Field for the Seahawks. This happened despite Seattle not even having a minor league team until a few years later and MLS a few years after that.
The book profiles all of the main characters in the Sounders' nascent days: owners Joe Roth and Adrian Hanauer, executive Tod Leiweke, the Sounders' USL coach (and now MLS coach) Brian Schmetzer, the Sounders' first MLS coach Sigi Schmid, key early signing Kasey Keller and others.
There are some interesting concepts about how the Sounders approached creating the team that led to the team breaking MLS attendance records left and right. Hanauer said he was glad the Sounders entered the league when they did, as opposed to earlier, because it allowed them to do things differently as the league continued to evolve. There's also this line, which I found particularly relevant to a number of MLS teams, including the Chicago Fire:
"In retrospect I am thankful we didn't get the franchise and try to get a stadium built in the suburbs," Hanauer says. "It would have been a disaster. Today if one of those communities handed me a stadium with no investment on our end, I wouldn't take it because I'm such a believer now in the power of a centrally located facility. Clearly the downtown stadium model is what has been successful."
Overall, the book is probably longer than it needed to be with some filler in the beginning, but the story is good. If you're into the business side of sports, this is a deep dive at how one group approached building a team from scratch and why they were able to be successful early on. It's worth a read if you're an MLS fan and are willing to get over a few quotes about Sounders fans being pretentious.
Up next: How Soccer Explains the World
Filed under: Soccer books