Sounders FC 2 Primer: What is it and why should you care?
Between the news of the S2 home opener and the announcement from the Sounders’ front office that the $250,000 raised from fans for an ownership stake in the club would be refunded, it’s understandable that some are curious (and a bit confused) about it. I’ll clear up some of the basics regarding S2 and give a few reasons why the average Sounders fan might want to pay attention to it.
What is S2?
S2 is the nickname for Seattle Sounders FC 2, a professional soccer team that is separate from but operates under the umbrella of the Seattle Sounders organization. S2 plays in the United Soccer League (USL), which is the third tier of professional soccer in the United States. The team was created in 2014 and played its first full season in 2015. Home matches are played at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, which is also where the first team trains and plays U.S. Open Cup matches. S2 is coached by former MLS player and Sounders assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson.
Why was S2 created?
In the past, the Sounders (like many other MLS clubs) had a reserve squad playing in the MLS Reserve League, which folded in 2013. U.S. Soccer hoped to merge that league with USL for a variety of reasons. So instead of a Sounders reserve team playing only other reserve teams, S2 plays against independent clubs like San Antonio FC and Tulsa Roughnecks FC, in addition to other MLS-affiliated teams like Portland Timbers 2 and LA Galaxy 2.
The creation and organization of S2 is also fairly unique in US Soccer: while 80 percent is owned by the Seattle Sounders parent club, the other 20 percent is owned by fans. The Sounders Community Trust (SCT) was formed to assume that 20 percent, and fans can purchase memberships in order to join.
So is S2 like a minor-league team?
Yes and no. S2 chiefly exists to provide an environment for young players (and occasional backups) to grow and develop in a professional setting, while sticking close enough to the first team if they play particularly well or need to serve a specific purpose. The club plays in a separate league and is separate from the first team, but the overlap is much more prominent than, say, the relationship between an MLB club and its minor-league affiliates.
Why should I pay attention to S2?
The roster of S2 is made up of players that the Sounders have deemed talented enough to potentially play for the first team at some point. Ideally, every player donning an S2 jersey was signed with the intention that they’d be able to swap it with a Seattle Sounders FC jersey sooner or later. Last season, forward Andy Craven impressed with S2 and was added to the first-team roster when the club was in the middle of an injury crisis. After a long injury layoff himself, Craven is back with S2 in the hopes of impressing again. Forward Oalex Anderson spent 2015 with S2 as well and was recently signed to the first team. Coaches and fans alike see a lot of potential in Anderson, who has already made a couple substitute appearances in the first few games of the MLS season.
What other S2 players should I keep an eye on?
Even though the USL season just started, S2 doesn’t have a full roster yet and kicked off its opener with a handful of first-team players that could make the drop down. There are a few players on the current official roster that have already shown some potential. Just this week, forward Myron Samuel scored a goal for his country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago. Midfielder Jordan Schweitzer, a native of Everett, was signed as a Homegrown Player for Seattle prior to the MLS SuperDraft, which means that the club really wanted Schweitzer and has quite a bit of faith in his talent.
The season already started? How are they doing?
Well, they’re only one match into the USL season, which was the home opener on Friday against Sacramento Republic FC. Strangely familiar to the first team’s current woes, S2 lost 1-0 to Sacramento on a second-half penalty kick. A number of first-team players that haven’t seen much playing time started this match, including Dylan Remick, Oniel Fisher, Michael Farfan, Aaron Kovar and Darwin Jones. Regardless of the result, a few players managed to impress with solid performances. Defender Tony Alfaro, taken by the Sounders in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft, put in a solid performance that shows why the club see him as a first-team quality player. Craven didn’t score, but he looked comfortable and fully able to pick up where he left off last season with S2.
What’s the deal with the club returning S2 fan shares?
Without wading too deeply into the various complexities at play here, basically the Sounders are returning the $250,000 that was raised via memberships in the SCT. The initial purpose of that money was to improve the facilities at Starfire Sports, but because the club has put a hold on such improvements, it decided to give the money back to the fans. The ownership stake is still fully intact because it was never the actual money that bought individuals into the SCT. Fans still have full memberships in the SCT, and the function of the SCT to S2 is the same as it has always been. Unfortunately, everything else is rather unclear, and the hope is that the SCT will soon gain some organization and structure in the future.
How can I watch S2?
Luckily, single-match tickets are rather cheap at $15-$20 each. Starfire Sports is in Tukwila, about 20 minutes south of downtown Seattle. All S2 USL matches are also live-streamed for free on SoundersFC.com.
Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.