Whenever Major League Soccer expands, two things are handed over to the new team. The first being players left up for the expansion draft. The second traditionally handed over is the Wooden Spoon, “awarded” to the team with the worst record that year.
Every MLS expansion team this century has achieved the Spoon*, so it’s to be expected that Seattle Sounders FC would continue the tradition when they begin play in 2009, right?
My friends, it is very possible that Seattle could be the first team to break the cycle of the expansion team ending up at the bottom of the barrel.
Let’s have a look, shall we?
The Sounders FC are unique in MLS expansion as they are the first team from USL1 to be “promoted” to the big time. Being a glorified promotion, it also makes them instantly competitive, as they’ll be retaining the talent from their USL lineup, while adding some known names to the roster.
Speaking of which, let's look at their current roster, comprised of four players:
Today was the unveiling of Freddie Ljungberg as Seattle's designated player, meaning he will be paid more than the salary cap allows, but the team only counts a portion of that salary towards the cap. Ljungberg starred at Arsenal for nine years, and played on the Swedish national team for ten years.
The former Gunner is joined by Kasey Keller, a native of the state of Washington and a former star goalkeeper for Millwall and Tottenham, as well as a four-time World Cup participant.
The first USL Sounder brought up to the big leagues is Sébastien Le Toux, a 24-year-old forward named USL's Most Valuable Player in 2007.
Finally, we have Sanna Nyassi, a current Sounder who happens to be the twin brother of New England Revolution midfielder Sainey Nyassi. He's got legs and attracted attention while on Gambia's U-20 team. One Nyassi may lead the way for the other Nyassi as well.
Overall, that's a pretty good roster so far, especially for an expansion club. It is expected that Seattle's front office will mostly fill out the rest of the roster with a mix of USL Sounders and players picked up in the expansion draft.
Put it all together and you have a very competitive team, especially once they find their groove together. Imagine facing this squad when they're firing on all cylinders.
Place them in the Western Conference, which has had recent struggles putting teams in the playoffs, and Seattle has an opportunity to make some real noise in their inaugural season.
Time will tell if Seattle Sounders FC has what it takes to avoid the Wooden Spoon and put a winning team in Qwest Field.
*Even in 2005, when Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake entered MLS, they finished 1-2 for the Spoon.