Sounders2 will play home games at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma next year while a new soccer venue is built.
A federal antitrust lawsuit six weeks ago has hastened the transition of the Sounders’ second-division franchise from Tukwila to Tacoma several years early.
The Sounders2 squad had already announced plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Tacoma by 2020 along with the Rainiers Class AAA baseball team. But those plans have been accelerated by the mid-September lawsuit, which has prompted the United Soccer League to require all teams to follow sanctioning rules requiring they play in stadiums of at least 5,000 seats.
Starfire Sports stadium in Tukwila only has capacity for 4,500 fans, meaning Sounders2 will play home games at the bigger Cheney Stadium in Tacoma next year while the new soccer venue is built.
The lawsuit was filed by the eight-team North American Soccer League against the United States Soccer Federation. The suit claims the federation is arbitrarily applying its own rules — like waiving the second division stadium requirements for some teams — to create a monopoly for Major League Soccer and its USL affiliates.
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The NASL has argued it could rival MLS if sanctioned as a first division league.
As a precaution, USL is now refusing to grant waivers for 2018 to teams with stadiums below minimum capacity requirements. Several MLS squads are expected to discontinue USL affiliations as a result.
But the Sounders, having already planned the Tacoma move, are merely speeding it up.
“Our organization was already thrilled to be moving ahead with the Rainiers and the City of Tacoma on the new stadium project,’’ Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer said Wednesday. “But when we learned of the opportunity to begin playing USL games as soon as 2018 in a facility like Cheney Stadium, we embraced the chance.”