Sounders FC

Seattle might be last neutral site for MLS Cup

SEATTLE – Impressed as Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was with the host city of MLS Cup 2009, he said Sunday that it is unlikely the game will return to Seattle anytime soon.

That is, unless Sounders FC plays its way into the host’s position.

Garber said Real Salt Lake’s penalty kicks win over Los Angeles at Qwest Field may have marked the final time the MLS title game is played at a neutral site. The issue may not be decided for a couple of months, but Garber said the time may have come for the final game to be played on the home pitch of the higher-seeded finalist.

“I think we’re getting to the point where the fans matter more than anything else,” he said. “And a home fan deserves the right – whether it’s a small market like Kansas City or a temporary stadium like San Jose – to host a final.”

Even if the league continues with its policy of determining host cities in advance, he implied there are many other league cities that deserve their chance before the game returns to Seattle.

Garber made clear that was no reflection on Seattle’s hosting of this game. He said the 46,011 crowd exceeded the league’s expectations. And beyond ticket sales, he said the city put on a good show.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “I’ve got to tell you, I was out taking pictures on my iPhone. The march to the match, and the logo and branding and just the celebration of the sport in this city is nothing short of spectacular.”

The 2010 season

With the final whistle of MLS Cup came an unofficial beginning to the 2010 Major League Soccer season.

The first order of business comes today, when the 15 existing MLS teams must each submit their lists of 11 players who will be protected in the Philadelphia Union expansion draft on Wednesday.

However, looming over all other offseason issues is the renegotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The current CBA expires on Jan. 21.

Garber has said he is optimistic, while acknowledging that the agreement will be difficult. Sounders FC player representative James Riley has said the union’s top issue is freedom of movement for the players.

Sounders notes

There was a strong Sounders presence as part of MLS Cup 2009.

Players and front-office personnel were introduced before the game. Sounders fans in the crowd responded by raising their scarves and by chanting “Seattle” and “Sounders” one more time.

Seattle forward Fredy Montero officially received his MLS newcomer of year award at halftime while the stadium video board showed some highlights from his season.

One Sounder not in attendance was coach Sigi Schmid, who remained at Overlake Hospital recovering from pneumonia.

Schmid, 56, was admitted on Thursday night after experiencing difficulty breathing. Sounders representatives have said his condition has stabilized and he could be released today.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808