A new, multi-year deal between the Sounders and iHeartMedia will see SportsRadio KJR become the team's "flagship'' station and air live game broadcasts as well as half-hour shows both pre and postgame
A new multi-year “flagship” deal between the Sounders and iHeartMedia will see the team’s games aired on Sports Radio KJR starting this season alongside half-hour long pre-and-post-game shows.
It marks a significant milestone for the nine-year-old Major League Soccer franchise, which for years had team-generated broadcasts air on KIRO 97.3 FM. The new deal will still involve team broadcaster Matt Johnson doing play-by-play of matches on KJR alongside assorted analysts, but is expected to make Sounders content more widely distributed amongst casual sports fans.
“We haven’t had someone as enthusiastically embrace us as a sports-only broadcast partner with the kind of interest and commitment and welcome that we currently feel with this relationship,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said Tuesday after the deal was announced.
Hanauer said more specific details about the shows and their content will evolve over time. But for now, he added: “This is an ambitious and comprehensive partnership, whereas maybe before, (just) our games were on the radio.”
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KJR had been seeking a flagship professional team for its airwaves since 2006, when its 21-year association with the NBA Supersonics came to an end. Its rival station, 710 ESPN Seattle, owns the rights for both the Seahawks and the Mariners.
“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the most successful MLS franchise,” iHeartMedia regional president Robert Dove said in a release, adding “this is an incredible opportunity to share our over three million person reach across all our brands to build on the already incredible Seattle Sounders fanbase.”
The deal comes as the Sounders, coming off their loss in the MLS Cup final to Toronto last December, prepare to open the 2018 regular season in early March. Prior to that, the team plays a couple of CONCACAF Champions League matchups on Feb. 22 in El Salvador and March 1 at CenturyLink Field against Santa Tecla FC.
The first KJR broadcast will be the team’s March 4 season opener against Los Angeles FC at CenturyLink.
The Sounders resumed training Tuesday in Tukwila ahead of Thursday’s final preseason match in Sacramento.
They announced a pair of first-team signings, adding former Toronto FC II fullback Jordan McCrary and midfielder Alex Roldan to their roster. McCrary is to be a backup to right back Kelvin Leerdam, who sprained his ankle in workouts on Monday and will miss the first Santa Tecla game next week.
The Sounders had been eyeing a possible return of longtime veteran Brad Evans as a right back, but that pursuit ended Tuesday when he signed with Sporting Kansas City — ending a Seattle tenure that stretched back to its 2009 expansion season.
It’s unclear how much time McCrary, 24, will actually see on the field should Leerdam miss any significant amount of action. For now, he’s No. 1 on the depth chart behind Leerdam and also right footed. The Sounders already had signed left-footed former Columbus Crew fullback Waylon Francis to primarily play left back — though he has experience on the right side as well.
Midfielder Gustav Svensson also has MLS right back experience.
Roldan, the team’s first-round pick in last month’s MLS SuperDraft, is the younger brother of midfielder Cristian Roldan.