The Seattle Sounders’ triumph Wednesday should become a seismic shift for soccer. There are championships, and then there are achievements that tilt the arc of sports history toward a new epoch.
The 3-0 victory over the Mexican club Pumas to take the North American continent’s top trophy has the capacity to fit the latter category. Mexican teams had won all 13 prior tournaments for the CONCACAF Champions League title since the competition took its modern form in 2008. Now American soccer, here in Seattle, proved it is ready for the world, an outstanding showing on an ideal stage.
A raucous, record-breaking crowd of 68,741 filled Lumen Field to watch the Sounders earn a place in the Club World Cup. For the first time, that places a Major League Soccer franchise on the same competitive footing as global blue-blood franchises from Europe and elsewhere.
To understand the magnitude of that climb, look no further than the Sounders’ sideline at coach Brian Schmetzer, a native son with roots so deep in this sport and city that he has been a part of all three incarnations of the Sounders, going back to 1980. Franchises and leagues rose, crested and fell as America slowly warmed to soccer; Schmetzer, player then coach, kept working to build the dream.
The MLS Sounders have won before under Schmetzer, and often enough to establish the team in the league’s firmament. The 2016 and 2019 MLS championships, an unbroken string of playoff appearances and four U.S. Open titles cemented the team as league elites. But taking the trophy for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football is a far bigger step.
Schmetzer’s Sounders have broken through, and an American club can rightly claim to be a force in the world’s most popular sport. That’s game-changing. Savor the landmark achievement.