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Seattle Sounders opening own business operations, breaking off from Seahawks

Joe Roth, Adrian Hanauer Seattle Sounders majority owner Joe Roth, left, and GM and co-owner Adrian Hanauer will oversee the club's transition after breaking its business partnership with the Seattle Seahawks. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The Seattle Sounders announced Thursday that they will break business operations from the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks on April 30. As part of the move, the MLS team will open its own office in downtown Seattle.

Team operations and training facilities will remain at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, about 20 minutes south of downtown, and the Sounders will continue to use CenturyLink Field as their home stadium. In a press release, team owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer called it an opportunity to “grow our brand under the banner of Sounders 2.0.”

Despite the new arrangement, Seahawks owner Paul Allen's ownership status has not currently changed, a Sounders spokesman told SI.com when reached via email for clarification. Allen, Microsoft's co-founder, was instrumental in bringing MLS to Seattle.

He received only a brief mention in the Sounders’ release, where majority owner Joe Roth thanked him and Vulcan, Inc. for their support. At the same time, Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin mentioned what the organization's break in operations means for Hanauer, Roth and Drew Carey, the other owners.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Joe, Adrian and Drew,” McLoughlin said. “The Sounders will continue to be part of our family as we share CenturyLink Field and will work together on mutually beneficial projects.”

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The announcement marks a milestone in that the Sounders feel they are stable enough to become an independent entity. The existing infrastructure in the NFL franchise allowed the organizations to share staff and operate jointly since the Sounders’ move to MLS in 2009.

The Sounders have led the league in attendance each year since then, and Seattle has 34,000 full-season-equivalent season-ticket memberships for 2014. Attendance in 67,000-seat CenturyLink Field is capped at 38,500 for MLS games, although the full complement is opened a handful of times each year.

The 67,385 fans in attendance at the 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers on Aug. 25, 2013, was a city soccer record and the second largest MLS crowd for a standalone game. In Seattle’s MLS era, the Sounders have sold 60,000 tickets for seven league and friendly matches.

“When we originally formed the partnership [with the Seahawks], we knew that eventually the Sounders operations would stand alone,” reads an email sent to Sounders season-ticket holders, signed by Roth and McLaughlin. “The goal is to create nothing less than a world-class franchise that is worthy of your continued passion and loyalty.”

SI Now: Sounders' Brad Evans on managing high expectations
On Friday's SI Now, Sports Illustrated soccer writer Brian Straus sat down with Seattle Sounders midfielder Brad Evans to discuss how far MLS has come and juggling Sounders' expectations while trying to peak as the World Cup approaches.
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