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MLS Cup could be within Sounders' grasp this season

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller holds the U.S. Open Cup as he celebrates with his teammates this month in Seattle, after they won the Open Cup for a third year in a row. Will the team's first MLS Cup be next?

They've won the U.S. Open Cup for the third year in a row. They've moved on to the next round of a major international competition. And now, the Seattle Sounders have set their sights on winning their first-ever Major League Soccer Cup this year.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says it would be the logical end to a spectacular season.

Winning record

The Sounders (18-7-9) are the No. 2 seed in the league heading into the first playoff game of the season Saturday night against Real Salt Lake in Utah. And they lead the MLS in scoring. That's a plus, because aggregate goals determine who moves on in the playoffs – if the Sounders should split their two games with Real Salt Lake. Game 2 is Wed., Nov. 2, at CenturyLink Field.

Art says this seems to be the Sounders' time – after not making it past the first round of the playoffs in their first two years of existence.

"The Sounders are probably in as good a position to get to the championship as they've ever been. The first two years they were excited to be there. This year, they want to win."

All signs point to their first MLS Cup. The Sounders recently won their third straight U.S. Open Cup and have moved on to the next round in the Champions League of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).

Outstanding coach and players

Sports Illustrated magazine this week named Sounders coach Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year and retiring Sounders star Kasey Keller as goalkeeper of the year. Art says there are a lot of star players on the team but he really tips his hat to Schmid. He says he's done a great job of manipulating the team's roster with two key players out for the season with injuries (Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White).

Most fans in the league

The Sounders have also led the MLS in attendance – averaging more than 38,000 fans a game. Art says that's 15,000 more than the team in second place for fan attendance – the LA Galaxy (23,000). 

And then there's the increased popularity of Major League Soccer in the Pacific Northwest with this year's addition of teams in Portland and Vancouver, B.C. Art says there have been a lot of sellouts in those two cities as well, but...

"The Sounders really are the template. They have set the standard for fan engagement, for community involvement beyond just the games, and also success. So, the climax for this seems to be an MLS Cup for Seattle."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest.

Kirsten Kendrick has been hosting Morning Edition on KNKX/KPLU since 2006. She has worked in news radio for more than 30 years. Kirsten is also a sports lover. She handles most sports coverage at the station, including helping produce a two-part series on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and the ongoing series "Going Deep."
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.
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