SEATTLE -- The formation of the Seattle Sounders' new USL PRO affiliate was not the only big announcement the club made at Tuesday afternoon's press conference.
Along with creating Seattle Sounders FC 2, to be referred to as S2, for the 2015 season, the Sounders also announced they have established the Sounders Community Trust, a fan-owned non-profit organization that will have a 20-percent ownership stake in the USL PRO club. The announcement marks the first instance of a North American professional soccer club giving fans such a large stake in club ownership.
“S2 is hopefully the next evolution in fan engagement and connection,” Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “Great, just exciting, outside-of-the-box, innovative things connecting our fans with our team and our players, and there’s probably more to come. This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can do with the [Sounders Community Trust] to make sure that we’re connected at the hip.”
Hanauer also said the Sounders Community Trust will partner heavily with the Emerald City Supporters (ECS), the Sounders' already-established independent team support group. The ECS put a substantial financial investment in the trust and will even have an internal organization that will offer fan-support to S2 in a similar manner to its support for the Sounders first team.
ECS member and content director Shawn Wheeler will be leading the ECS support group for S2.
“It’s really, truly an unprecedented opportunity within the supporters' culture in the United States,” Wheeler said. “It’s something very rare worldwide. … Having a financial investment in your club is truly a supporter’s dream come true. For us to be able to go forward and say that we own part of this team, it’s very powerful to us, and it’s extremely important.”
Seattle center back Zach Scott, who played professionally for the Sounders in the USL for seven seasons before making the Sounders’ first team, was honored as the ceremonial first member of the Sounders Community Trust. Scott said the formation of the USL team in Seattle is an important step for the team in terms of being able to develop young talent at a consistently high level.
“The biggest part of developing as a pro is who’s around you,” Scott told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s really the biggest thing about this USL team, is growing the young guys. Now these young players that really need to be getting games aren’t going to be shipped off across the US to an organization that maybe isn’t run as professionally as it should be. They’re still going to be here with the Sounders and getting the games that they need.”
With the Sounders' youth program on the rise following the national-team success of defender DeAndre Yedlin and forward Jordan Morris, Scott says he fully expects Seattle to continue producing young talent at an elite level.
“There’s no reason to say we can’t continue to produce players who are not only going to play for the Sounders, but be national-team players,” Scott said. “Maybe they can eventually move on to even bigger and crazier leagues."