Major League Soccer announced today that Seattle will begin play during the 2009 season. The Seattle team will play all home matches at Qwest Field.

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Major League Soccer announced today that Seattle will begin play during the 2009 season. The Seattle team will play all home matches at Qwest Field.

“We are proud to award our 15th team to Seattle, a world-class city and tremendous soccer market,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber.

MLS granted a club to Seattle after securing an ownership agreement with Hollywood movie studio executive Joe Roth, Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer, actor Drew Carey and Paul Allen’s Vulcan Sports & Entertainment.

“The addition of Seattle to MLS provides us with a true gateway to Asia for a sport that is at the forefront of today’s globalization,” Garber said.

There is no decision yet about the team’s nickname, and the team said fans will be asked for suggestions. The team’s Web site is mlsinseattle.com.

The Sounders will play their final season in the United Soccer League in 2008.

MLS, the top professional soccer league in the United States and Canada, currently has teams in 13 cities. It will expand to 16 teams, with San Jose in 2008 and potentially Philadelphia or St. Louis joining Seattle as the newbies in 2009.

The new Seattle franchise will play on FieldTurf at Qwest. It will be stocked with players from an expansion draft, with each existing team able to protect a certain number of their players. The draft for the San Jose franchise will be Nov. 28, and it is likely the draft to stock the Seattle team will occur next November, right after the championship game.

The specifics weren’t announced, but the new MLS team will be able to retain some of the Sounders players.

“As a lifelong soccer fan, player and coach, I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of the sport,” said Roth. “Seattle is the perfect city for a Major League Soccer team. The fans are supportive, progressive and open-minded — just what this great international sport needs.”

Hanauer, a minority owner, will serve as the team’s general manager and oversee soccer operations. He will be responsible for hiring the coach, assembling the roster and making player personnel decisions.

Hanauer brings six years of general manager experience to his new position. Under his watch, the Sounders went to the USL championship match three times in four years, capturing the title in 2005 and 2007.

“I am thrilled about the opportunity to help shape the vision of an MLS team in Seattle,” said Hanauer. “The Pacific Northwest has a long history of successful soccer franchises, from the youth system through the professional ranks. We will continue to enhance and grow the soccer tradition featuring a mix of local and international players.”

The team will launch a supporters club patterned after the FC Barcelona model which boasts the largest membership base for a football fan club worldwide. Carey will be actively involved in the club and the overall fan experience.

“I’m proud to be working with forward-thinking people like Joe, Adrian and Tod. And we’re all excited about bringing democracy to sports in America,” said Carey.

The MLS Seattle season will kick off in April 2009, with a 30-match campaign that will feature 15 home dates taking place at Qwest Field. The upper bowl will be covered to create a more intimate atmosphere. With a seating capacity of 24,500 in the lower bowl, soccer fans will enjoy excellent views in a stadium that was initially built with the highest level of soccer in mind.

“We want Seattle sports fans to experience the world’s game — the passion, the energy, and enthusiasm, all of which will be on display at Qwest Field beginning in 2009,” said VSE CEO Tod Leiweke.

Season-ticket deposits of $50 per seat are now being taken. Fans can call 877-MLS-GOAL, visit www.mlsinseattle.com, or stop by the Qwest Field Box Office, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A deposit guarantees a place in line and priority to purchase MLS Seattle membership for the 2009 season. All deposits will be credited toward the membership purchase. Membership prices and locations will be announced at a later date.

“Qwest Field was built on a promise to the public that it would be a world class stadium for soccer and football and that promise was kept,” said Fred Mendoza, the Public Stadium Authority vice chair. “We also promised the Washington soccer community that we would work hard to bring a Major League Soccer team to Qwest Field and we are here today to deliver on that promise. It is a great day for soccer in the Pacific Northwest.”

Alan Hinton, a former Sounders coach with a long involvement in professional soccer here, believes it will be important to add some familiar names to fans.

“If they have some name players that this city recognizes immediately, I think it could be a bonanza,” Hinton said last week. “But the players who come here have to want to come, and settle into the lifestyle.

“If the owners do their homework right, I’m sure they’ll be successful. I truly believe that. I’m so excited. This is exactly what the city needs.”

The San Jose franchise paid an expansion fee of $20 million to join the league next season. That’s twice the $10 million paid by the Toronto franchise that joined MLS in 2007 and played to capacity crowds this season.

The Seattle franchise, according to sources, will pay a $30 million expansion fee. The trebling of expansion fees from Toronto to Seattle is seen as a sign that the once-struggling league will reach its goal of profitability by 2010. Certainly, the signing of English superstar David Beckham by the Los Angeles Galaxy this past season gave the MLS a huge boost.

It now has television agreements with four networks — Disney (which includes ESPN and ABC), Fox (through the Fox soccer channel), Univision, and HD Net. The MLS championship game, to be played Nov. 18, will be telecast on ABC.