The Tacoma Tide soccer team, which seemed near death’s door at the end of last season, was reborn Wednesday as Sounders FC U-23.
The Premier Development League amateur club hopes to gain an infusion of talent from the Seattle Sounders FC academy teams and a marketing boost from an affiliation with the Major League Soccer club.
Sounders U-23 will continue to play in Pierce County – although a home stadium has not been identified – and will remain under the operation of local businessmen Lane Smith and Cliff McElroy, who purchased it in November.
“The Sounders brand represents a significant brand; not just the No. 1 brand in soccer in the country, it is now a world brand,” Smith said. “From a Pierce County standpoint, this allows an opportunity for people to go see very high-quality soccer at a price point that is very affordable.”
Seattle Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said the agreement will increase awareness of Seattle Sounders FC in Pierce County. The arrangement also builds on an earlier partnership between Seattle Sounders FC and the Sounders Women team, which has been operated by the Tacoma Tide organization.
Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said the affiliation will provide a nearby summer home for their college-age prospects.
“It becomes a logical progress,” Schmid said. “It bridges that gap from the under-18 academy team to the pro team and becomes a great enhancement for the development of players in addition to their college experience.”
Access to new talent could help the U-23 club rebound from its 1-10-5 record last season – worst in the club’s six seasons. Sounders director of youth development Darren Sawatzky will take over as coach.
“Obviously, Darren will have a significant role in the roster makeup, but we’re not going to be dictatorial about who needs to be on the team and who doesn’t,” Hanauer said. “We want a high-quality team that’s super-competitive, and I think the owners of the team want the same and want to see players develop as well.”
The Tide drew 173 spectators per game during a 2011 season split between the Stadium Bowl in Tacoma and Curtis High School in University Place. That ranked third among the four PDL teams in the area: behind the Kitsap Pumas of Bremerton (543) and the North Sound SeaWolves of Everett/Edmonds (206), but ahead of Washington Crossfire of Redmond (62), according to figures compiled by the GoalWa.net website.
Sounders FC trained Wednesday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. Schmid reduced the workload because the players will undergo their annual fitness testing today and Friday at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. … Reserve goalkeeper Andrew Weber and his twin brother, Elliot, will appear in the CBS series “The Amazing Race,” which premiers Feb. 19.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer