Next stop, FIFA Club World Cup: Seattle Sounders achieve "immortality" after CCL title

Seattle Sounders FC are entering a place no Major League Soccer team has gone before: the FIFA Club World Cup, representing the region as 2022 Concacaf Champions League winners.

The dates, location and opponents are still to be determined, but that opportunity wasn’t lost on Garth Lagerwey as celebrations roared Wednesday night at Lumen Field, minutes removed from a 3-0 second-leg win over Pumas UNAM that sealed a 5-2 aggregate scoreline.

That result, powered by Raul Ruidiaz’s brace and Nicolas Lodeiro’s bring-the-house-down moment, was crystalized roughly seven hours after the UEFA Champions League Final matchup was determined at the Santiago Bernabeau in Spain.

“We’re going to play against Real Madrid or Liverpool in a real game for a trophy,” Lagerwey, Seattle's general manager and president of soccer, said live on the Extratime postgame show. “ … I feel like a little kid. This is the stuff you dream of.”

Lagerwey’s comments came after a record-breaking crowd of 68,741 fans witnessed the historic result, which established MLS’s first-ever CCL title after four clubs came up short in previous editions.

Already one of the biggest clubs in MLS, perhaps a new level is near for Seattle.

“I think we’re going to become a global club now,” Lagerwey said. “I’ve got to think my phone’s got to start ringing once some people see what our fanbase, our building … it’s as good a soccer environment as anywhere in the world. It just is. This is a pretty special place.”

As much as this is Seattle’s moment, Lagerwey also took stock of the bigger picture. He sees signs of MLS growing by leaps and bounds, with this CCL victory acting as a precursor to the new reimagined Leagues Cup that launches in 2023 and brings more Liga MX games.

“Look, we’re a good team, we spent a long time building this thing. But there’s a lot of good teams in this league,” Lagerway said. “New York City’s a great team, LAFC’s coming out of the gates, great team. New England had 73 points last year. There’s a bunch of good teams and that’s the whole thing, we’re level now with the top Mexican clubs. The top MLS clubs I believe can compete on any given day with anybody in Mexico, and you just couldn’t say that five years ago.

“We are the symbol, we’re the tip of the spear, we pushed through, we finally did it, we vanquished the demons. But everybody’s welcome. We want a crowded mountaintop up here. We don’t want to be up here by ourselves.”

For a club that’s twice won MLS Cup (2016, ‘19), now there’s another special night that will go down in American soccer annals.

“Immortality,” Lagerway said of his lasting impression. “You get into sports for stuff people can never take away. This will be written down, it will be there forever. Hopefully it’s the first of many.”