The Sounders will become the second team to use SeatGeek’s primary ticketing platform — with the Portland Timbers and Minnesota United FC set to do so starting in 2019 — since the company became the official ticketing partner of Major League Soccer in July 2016.
It has been 13 months since secondary-ticketing giant SeatGeek broke into the primary market by agreeing to sell seats for the Sporting Kansas City soccer team.
Now, the latest Major League Soccer club to sign on with SeatGeek will be the Sounders, who will announce Wednesday they are shedding their longstanding Ticketmaster partnership after this season.
The Sounders said making SeatGeek their official ticketing partner for all primary and secondary sales is unrelated to complaints about Ticketmaster network outages this season that delayed fan entry into CenturyLink Field.
In fact, the Sounders’ move to New York-based SeatGeek after nine seasons with Ticketmaster had been rumored since the Sporting KC deal last year.
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“They’re a technology company that works really strongly and smartly and efficiently,” Sounders chief operating officer Bart Wiley said of the multiyear deal, declining to disclose terms. “We’re excited about the opportunity they’re going to provide our fans, just to continue to have an easier, more efficient overall ticketing experience, along with the mobile as well.”
The Sounders will become the second team to use SeatGeek’s primary ticketing platform — with the Portland Timbers and Minnesota United FC set to do so starting in 2019 — since the company became the official ticketing partner of MLS in July 2016. About two-thirds of SeatGeek sales involve mobile ticketing, and the MLS deal was touted as bringing an enhanced experience to fans via technology enabling them to sell or transfer tickets on any exchange of their choice. It also makes it easier for fans to have tickets scanned from phones for entry to stadiums.
For the Sounders, the deal means the team can sell match tickets on its website, SeatGeek and any other website or application of its choosing.
“This is giving true ability to every team to be able to control where their inventory goes and sell in as many places as they would like,” SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza said.
He added his company is thrilled to have landed a “big-fish” franchise such as the Sounders and added the technology “should enhance what’s already a top-level experience for those fans.”
Part of the reason it has taken time for secondary resellers to partner with teams — beyond waiting for long-term Ticketmaster deals to expire — comes from previously being likened to past “scalpers” hustling on street corners to sell tickets above face value. The onset of internet technology led to online exchanges becoming legalized and accepted as a way for brokers — some of them former scalpers — to sell seats to the masses as would any official team retailer.
The past few years also have seen the lines completely blurred between primary tickets sold directly by teams on their websites or via Ticketmaster versus on secondary resale exchanges where prices can be inflated several times over.
Nowadays, prices for primary and secondary seats often are so similar fans are oblivious to whether tickets come directly from teams or are being resold by third parties. Teams have introduced concepts such as “dynamic pricing” that let them inflate their face-value tickets for “high-demand” games to a point they mirror or cost more than similar secondary-market seats.
All that similarity means having a secondary marketplace such as SeatGeek or StubHub partnering with pro squads and leagues no longer carries the stigma it once might have. Indeed, they’re now increasingly seen as just another corporate competitor in the ticketing world.
StubHub was the first to nudge in to Ticketmaster’s primary-sales domain early last year by making the Philadelphia 76ers their official ticketing partner. Months later, the SeatGeek deal with MLS occurred, followed by the Sporting KC pact.
“I think as technology continues to make everything different and better, the ticketing world is no different,” Wiley said. “Every team is looking to make things better for their fans. The backbone of our organization has always been fan first, fan friendly, and if this is something that checks those boxes, we’re ready to jump in with both feet.”