The Sounders FC announced Thursday that the club’s entire first-team and staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those eligible within the Tacoma Defiance roster and staff are also fully vaccinated.
“(This) is a major milestone for our club,” Garth Lagerwey, the Sounders general manager and president of soccer, said in a news release. “Bringing everyone to this moment safely would not have been possible without a lot of focused and dedicated people, but, in particular, I want to recognize our exemplary medical staff for steering us through the past year.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer and keeper Stefan Frei are among those within the club who’ve encouraged people to get vaccinated and still mask up and socially distance amid the pandemic.
The club is taking it a step further by partnering with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and the City of Seattle, with assistance from Lumen Field and First & Goal Inc., to offer vaccinations to all eligible fans at home games.
Lumen Field’s event center is already the site of what is regarded as the largest civilian-led vaccination hub in the United States. All eligible Sounders fans will be able to pair vaccination with attending a match, beginning with Sunday’s 6 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The locations to serve those in attendance will be the West Field Plaza outside of Section 140 and the East Main Concourse outside of Section 104. No appointment is necessary, but will only be offered from the time gates open through the end of the match. Fans have the choice between the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or receiving a first dose of the Moderna vaccine.
You are not eligible if you’ve received a first dose elsewhere but if the Moderna shot is selected, scheduling for the second dose, which will take place at any one of the City of Seattle’s community vaccination hubs of the fan’s choice, can be made. The in-stadium vaccination locations will be administered by Seattle Fire Department mobile EMS units.
Virginia Mason Franciscan Health is providing staffing and volunteers to support the process. Fans who receive a shot will earn a voucher for a free hot dog at the stadium concession stands.
The Sounders also host LAFC (May 16), Atlanta United (May 23) and Austin FC (May 29) at Lumen Field.
“As a community, it’s essential for as many people as possible to get vaccinated,” Lagerwey continued in the news release. “We hope that our players and staff being 100% bought into the overall vaccination effort inspires others to do the same.”
Atlanta, Austin and Portland Timbers are among MLS clubs that previously reported their teams as fully vaccinated. LAFC even permitted its most ardent fans — the 3252 Independent Supporters Union — to carry on as normal in Banc of California Stadium’s North End as long as each member is fully vaccinated against the virus.
It’s possible the Sounders could do the same, but the organization remains conservative in its approach to returning to the full game-day experience.
MLS is expected to reevaluate its safety protocols as more teams and fans become fully vaccinated. Currently players who are fully vaccinated, asymptomatic and test negative for COVID-19 do not have to quarantine for the stipulated five days if they come in contact with someone who has tested positive. Quarantining for international travel may be completely omitted if fully vaccinated.
“The science behind fighting COVID-19 with vaccinations is science that our club believes in and supports wholeheartedly,” Peter Tomozawa, a Sounders co-owner and president of business operations, said in a news release. “We want to get back to normal as soon as possible, with a full stadium singing, cheering and celebrating with the team in person, but that can only happen if we’re all willing to do our own individual parts — which includes getting vaccinated and continuing to mask up and follow health protocols.”