What is a Seattle freakin' Sounder? The origins of the MLS Cup finalists' nickname

SEATTLE — “We’re the Seattle freakin’ Sounders.”

It’s become a rallying cry for the Sounders’ fan base ever since head coach Brian Schmetzer delivered those words in an impassioned post-training speech to reporters while his team was in the midst of a rough patch of form earlier this year.

The sentiment resonated so much that the Emerald City Supporter’s Group even memorialized it on a pregame tifo displayed before Seattle’s Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs match against Real Salt Lake on Oct. 23.

But what exactly is a Seattle freakin’ Sounder? For those not based in the Pacific Northwest, the answer might not be an obvious one. On a simple level, the name is just a reference to the Puget Sound, and at this point it’s hard to picture the club being called anything else. But looking at the backstory, the Sounders were actually reasonably close to having another name altogether.

To get that story for those who may find themselves wondering about the root of the name and how it came to be ahead of Sunday’s MLS Cup Final (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN, TSN, TVAS) between Seattle and Toronto FC, MLSsoccer.com contacted local soccer historian Frank MacDonald. The former Sounders PR man provided his recollection of the ‘name the team contest’ that led to the newly-formed NASL franchise being handed the moniker in the lead-up to their 1974 debut campaign.

As it turns out, the Sounders were almost the Seattle Mariners before the Seattle Mariners became the city’s Major League Baseball franchise a few years later (Mariners actually finished as the runner-up in the widely publicized vote).

“It was one of the names that was multiple winners. I think they declared a singular winner representative of all the people that put in, so it already had some tradition around here at that time,” MacDonald said. “Mariners came up during that, Shcooners [was another one], and Mariners obviously came into the lexicon of sports society around here later, but [Sounders] was a name that continually made the rounds.”

So, there you have it.

When the Sounders expanded to MLS from the USL ahead of the 2009 season, they opted to keep the name but change their kits from the heritage whites and pacific blues of years past to the Rave Green that has since become the staple of the team.

MacDonald also dished the backstory of how the decision was made on the color, saying in addition to being a homage to the lush Pacific Northwest, it was also intended to contrast with the grey-covered skies Seattle is known for.

“There were a number of color combinations because I got to see some of the other ones that did not have the bright green in them,” MacDonald said. “They were vastly different. But by the time it hit my desk, it was rave. It’s not a name that had been associated with the color at the time, you used to hear about Kelly Green or Forest Green or whatever was in a Crayola box. But rave was altogether new to me.

“The other two colors they mentioned, cascade shale and the pacific blue, those seemed quite tame by comparison. But rave was supposed to almost be an exclamation point — exclamatory, bright, breaking out of the gray that a lot of people associate with this area. So, that’s how it came to be and I started just using it in press releases right off the bat. You hear in Europe a lot, you use another way to describe your team. So I was writing releases where rave was the second reference and that’s just how we rolled with it.”