Commentary: Sounders FC season will be defined by MLS Cup Playoffs
Call it hyperbole, but in terms of scope, I think Monday night's match against FC Dallas an absolute must-advance match, through either a win or a scoreless draw.
Now, you say "wait a minute:" The Sounders won a Supporters Shield for having the best regular-season record in the league. They won a U.S. Open Cup Championship for the fourth time in six years. How can I stand here and call tomorrow's conference semifinal match a seminal moment for this organization?
It's pretty simple: In my opinion, what matters the most in the "American" sports fan's mindset – is a professional league championship. In this case, an MLS Cup.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Mariners don't play against "club" baseball teams around the country in an annual tournament. And there's no trophy that goes to the annual winners of the rivalry games between the Seahawks and 49ers. In terms of relevance, all that matters is a World Series Title or a Super Bowl Championship.
And if you walk down the street and ask anyone what a "Supporters Shield" or "Cascadia Cup" is – it might insult the intelligence of a die-hard Sounders fan, but the Average Joe would still give you a blank stare.
I'm not discounting the unprecedented success and growth of the Sounders since their inception. But the team hasn't advanced past the opening round of the MLS Playoffs in four of the last five years, nor have they ever made it to the league's championship match. In order to shut the haters up - and to gain more acceptance in the mainstream arena, they need to win a league title – and that starts by advancing tomorrow night.
I understand DeAndre Yedlin's point in his tweet: That scoring the most points in the league is representative of the best team. And if we were in Europe, the Sounders would've already won the league title.
But this is America. And even though the Mariners won a record-breaking 116 games in 2001 – their cupboard still lays bare.
Earlier this year, the Seattle Storm held "Championship Night" at KeyArena, featuring the Seahawks Lombardi Trophy, the Sonics' Larry O'Brien Trophy and the two WNBA Championship Trophies. I'm not debating whether or not the Sounders' U.S. Open Cups should have been invited. It's the fact that they WEREN'T invited that helps demonstrate my point.
So yes, I think it's pretty cool the Sounders have a bunch of hardware, commemorating a great year.
But if they lose to FC Dallas tomorrow night, it will have been a great season that disappointed many because they fell short of expectations when it mattered the most.