SEATTLE, WA— The Seattle Sounders might have never been to an MLS Cup Final before, but clubs using the same name in other previous leagues have been to seven league championship moments. Altogether those Sounders are 4-3 in getting the job done.
(Cover photo: Scott Butner, Soccer Bowl ’77)
NASL Sounders: 1977 and 1982 Soccer Bowls
1977-(L) The Sounders made a ‘cinderella run’ into Soccer Bowl ’77 after an up and down regular campaign. The club got to the final by beating George Best and the LA Aztecs 1-0 in front of nearly 57,000 fans in the Kingdome. Then came the final – held in the stadium that the Portland Timbers still call home to this day. It was a heartbreaking 2-1 loss that was compounded in gloom in several now-historic ways: Seattle’s only goal was scored while national TV was ‘away’ on a commercial break, Portland locals rooting feverishly against Seattle, the Sounders had a goal called back and also hit the post in the waning minutes, Seattle goalkeeper Tony Chursky gifted the Cosmos a first-half goal with a bungled handling of the ball in his penalty box. It was Pele’s last match as a pro player.
1982-(L) Did I say 1977 was a cinderella story? Well then 1982 was a ‘miracle.’ The best series in club(s)playoff history came against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The Sounders were almost eliminated in Florida but scored one late and one it overtime (golden goal) to send the series back to the Kingdome. Seattle won it before 28,000 fans in the ‘SoccerDome’ on a seeing-eye strike from Kenny Hibbitt.
Soccer Bowl ’82 was in San Diego. It was the Cosmos again, and another one-goal loss on another winner from Giorgio Chinaglia.
A-League / USL Sounders: 1995, 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2007 League Finals
1995-(W) The Sounders beat the Atlanta Ruckus 2 matches to 1 in a series. The MLS Sounders featured this season in this article. It was the year before MLS was born and the Sounders could rightly claim winning “Division 1.” The clincher was played and celebrated at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.
1996-(W) The Sounders beat the Rochester Raging Rhinos 2-0 at Memorial Stadium to repeat as A-League Champions. Joey Leonetti scored both goals for the Sounders.
2004-(L) The Sounders got to the 2004 A-League Final in Montreal on the thrust of a thrilling 3-2 extra time advancement over rivals Portland Timbers, who had led the league all season. The Impact shut out Seattle 2-nil in Montreal to take the title. Years later both sides would meet up again in MLS.
2005-(W) The Sounders went to penalty kicks with the Richmond Kickers at the Clink. Finally a 1-1 draw was broken as Seattle celebrated it’s third-ever league title, all coming in its second incarnation.
2007-(W) The Sounders trounced the Atlanta Silverbacks 4-0 at a packed Starfire Stadium in the pouring rain. MLS rumors would soon follow and this group of players played through a 2008 campaign of speculation – and eventually a playoff loss to the Montreal Impact.
While the NASL years established the Sounders as marketable, popular and competitive, the USL years garnered the club 4 league titles and established the name as one of the most successful in American soccer.
The MLS Sounders have taken over the mantle, and provided multiple US Open Cup Titles. Now comes “Sounders 3.0’s” first crack at a league crown. Standing in the way is another Canadian side – Toronto FC.