Seattle Sounders defender Brad Smith has been to Seahawks games before. He knows how loud it can get inside CenturyLink Field.
So when he looked up and saw 69,274 fans in the seats during Seattle’s 3-1 win over Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final on Sunday afternoon, he knew there was something different about the atmosphere.
“The loudest I’ve played in,” he said after the game.
Hosting the MLS Cup has been a long time coming for Sounders FC, a franchise that played its inaugural season in MLS in 2009. Decades before, in 1974, the Sounders of the North American Soccer League became the first iteration of Seattle’s beloved team. They played for two seasons at Memorial Stadium, often in front of sold-out crowds, before joining the city’s brand new NFL franchise as occupants of the Kingdome.
Sounders’ coach Brian Schmetzer, a Seattle native, understands that history, so when he walked into the postgame press conference with a Heineken in hand, he got a little choked up.
“The players and the fans deserve this,” Schmetzer said, fighting back tears. “The players persevered. It was a first half that we needed to make some adjustments. They never quit and the fans never stopped believing. I’m very, very happy and proud of the city and the fans.”
For the third time in three years, Seattle played for the MLS Cup on Sunday. But this time, it was at home, in front of some of the most loyal, passionate fans in the league — fans that set the standard for what support from an MLS fanbase should look like. This time, it meant more.
“I got emotional walking out a little bit,” said forward Jordan Morris, who grew up in Mercer Island. “I felt some tears coming out. It was such a big moment in this club’s history and for myself, growing up in this city, seeing all the fans, knowing my family was there. It was just an amazing experience.”
The party started early in the day, with Macklemore putting on a performance for fans in Pioneer Square. The march to the match from the Emerald City Supporter’s group packed thousands fans onto Occidental Ave, with the fans’ chants louder than ever. Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready performed an electric version of the national anthem before the game kicked off.
And on the pitch, fans were treated to a brilliant game, with Seattle coming out on top, 3-1.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who has been an integral part of Seattle’s franchise as a member of the team since 2014, couldn’t believe the atmosphere.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s a dream come true. I got a little teary-eyed, not so much for winning the trophy, but for winning it at home with our fans, and having that positivity in a joyous moment that you can share with everybody. Yes, we’re always well supported. We had such an amazing time in Toronto when we won in 2016, but to be able to do it at home, and let them enjoy it, I think is probably the biggest gift we can give them, and they so deserve it.”
After the game, the stands remained full for some time, with no one wanting to leave the party, the near 70,000 fans — the largest crowd for a sporting event in CenturyLink Field history — trying to soak it all in as long as possible.
“I’ll continue to celebrate with the fans,” Schmetzer said. “I’ll celebrate it with my family. Every step from here on out, we’re going to enjoy this moment. This is something no one can take away from anyone in this organization or myself. I’m just very proud and very happy.”