Sports in Seattle
Seattle's sports history began at the start of the 20th century with the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA)'s Seattle Metropolitans, which in 1917 became the first American hockey team to win the Stanley Cup. Seattle's sports history continues today with the city's eight major professional teams: the National Football League (NFL)'s Seattle Seahawks, Major League Baseball (MLB)'s Seattle Mariners, Major League Soccer (MLS)'s Seattle Sounders FC, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)'s Seattle Storm, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)'s Reign FC, Major League Rugby (MLR)'s Seattle Seawolves, the XFL’s Seattle Dragons, and the future National Hockey League (NHL) Seattle NHL team. Seattle also boasts a strong history in collegiate sports, with two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I schools: the University of Washington and Seattle University, and one NCAA Division II school, Seattle Pacific University.
Major professional teams
At 4.9 million residents, the Seattle metroplex is now the 14th-largest (between metro Phoenix at #13 and metro Orlando at #15) city in the U.S. In 1976, the NFL's Seattle Seahawks began play. The Seahawks played at the Kingdome until its implosion in 2000. The Seahawks now play in CenturyLink Field.
Professional soccer in Seattle has always involved the Seattle Sounders, whose original team played in the defunct NASL in the 1970s through to its demise in 1983. The name lived on in a second incarnation of the team, which played in the second level of US soccer from 1994 through 2008. In November 2007, Major League Soccer announced that Seattle would host the league's fifteenth franchise to start play in 2009. The team held a vote among its fan base for the team's name between March 27 and 31, 2008 and Seattle Sounders FC was chosen. The current version of the Sounders plays at CenturyLink Field.
In 1977, following years of legal wrangling over the move of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee (to become the Milwaukee Brewers), the MLB awarded Seattle a new baseball franchise, the Seattle Mariners. From 1977 the Mariners played in the Kingdome until mid-season 1999 when the team moved across the street to what is now known as T-Mobile Park, where they continue to play today. The WNBA's Seattle Storm arrived in Seattle in 2000, and played at KeyArena through the 2018 season. With KeyArena being closed until at least 2020 for major renovations, the Storm will play for at least the 2019 season at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett and at Alaska Airlines Arena on the University of Washington campus. In 2013, Seattle's professional women's soccer team Reign FC, including several members of the World Cup winning US women's national team, opened their first season at Starfire Sports Complex and played at Memorial Stadium in Seattle Center through 2018. Starting in the 2019 NWSL season, the Reign began play on their new home pitch at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium.
In September 2012, the Seattle City Council agreed to move forward towards building a $490 million new arena in the SoDo, Seattle neighborhood. This commitment was intended to help bring the NBA back to Seattle along with the NHL. Instead, five years later, on December 3, 2017, the Council approved the expansion of Key Arena in Seattle Center, under the direction of the Oak View Group. Three days later, on December 6, 2017, the NHL awarded a new franchise opportunity to Seattle. In 1976, Seattle was awarded a conditional NHL franchise; however, this opportunity did not come to fruition. The new professional hockey team was originally expected to join the league in the 2020-21 season, given an on-time completion of the Arena expansion project. On December 4, 2018, the NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved Seattle's bid to become the 32nd NHL team, with an inaugural season in the revamped arena set to begin in October 2021. The new Seattle franchise expands and rebalances the league to four 8-team divisions, equal to the NFL in size.
Current major professional teams
|Club names||Sport||League||Home venue||Founded||First season||National
|Seattle Sounders FC||Soccer||MLS||CenturyLink Field||1974 NASL||2009 (MLS)||8||40,247|
|Seattle Seahawks||Football||NFL||CenturyLink Field||1974||1976||1||68,976|
|Seattle Dragons||Football||XFL||CenturyLink Field||2018||2020||0|
|Seattle Mariners||Baseball||MLB||T-Mobile Park||1977||1977||0||28,388|
|Seattle Seawolves||Rugby Union||MLR||Starfire Sports Complex||2017||2018||2||3,280|
|Seattle NHL team||Ice Hockey||NHL||Seattle Center Arena||2018||2021 (planned)||0|
|Seattle Storm||Basketball||WNBA||Alaska Airlines Arena||1999||2000||3||8,109|
|Reign FC||Soccer||NWSL||Cheney Stadium||2012||2013||2||3,824|
- National titles include all-league level championships. In U.S. professional men's soccer, there are currently three annual national champion honors: the MLS Cup, the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters' Shield. In U.S. professional women's soccer, there are currently two annual national titles: the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship.
- Last complete season.
- Temporary home during renovations to Seattle Center Arena.
The city of Seattle has a total of seventeen national championship honors, including one Stanley Cup, one NBA Championship, one Super Bowl Championship, three WNBA championships, four U.S. Open Cup championships, one MLS Supporters' Shield, two MLS Cup championships, two NWSL Shields and two MLR Championship Shields.
Seattle's first professional sports championship was brought to the city by the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917, when they became the first American team to win the coveted Stanley Cup by beating the Montréal Canadiens three games to one. They returned to the Stanley Cup finals twice more. Their first return, again versus Montreal, was in 1919; that series was cancelled due to an outbreak of influenza with the two teams tied at 2–2–1. The Metropolitans last went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1920, when they lost to the Ottawa Senators.
Led by Lenny Wilkens, the Seattle SuperSonics made it to the NBA Finals in two consecutive years in the late 1970s. In 1978 they lost the championship series to the Washington Bullets in seven games, but rebounded in 1979 to defeat the Bullets by four games to one to win the NBA Championship. The next time the Sonics made it to NBA Finals was in 1996 when they met the Chicago Bulls, to whom they lost the series in six games.
Another national basketball championship trophy arrived in 2004, when the Seattle Storm defeated the Connecticut Sun two games to one to win the WNBA championship. The Seattle Storm won their second WNBA title in 2010, beating the Atlanta Dream in 3 games. Eight years later, the Storm swept the Washington Mystics in 2018 to take their third national championship.
The Seattle Mariners have won the American League West Pennant three times – in 1995, 1997, and, most recently, in 2001, after a record 116-win season. The Mariners, however, have yet to win an American League Championship or a World Series Championship.
Seattle Sounders FC won the U.S. Open Cup in the team's inaugural season of 2009. The Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup again in 2010, becoming the first MLS team to achieve back-to-back U.S. Open Cup Titles. Seattle continued its U.S. Open Cup dominance in the 2011 campaign, becoming the fourth team ever to win the tournament in three consecutive years (the last being the New York Greek Americans in 1967–69). The Sounders beat the Chicago Fire 2–0 in front of a then record-setting MLS crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field on October 4, 2011. On September 16, 2014, the Sounders captured their fourth U.S. Open Cup title, overcoming the Philadelphia Union – on the Union's home pitch – in extra time by a final score of 3–1. On October 25, 2014, in front of a crowd of 57,673 at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders topped the Los Angeles Galaxy by a score of 2–0 to claim their first MLS Supporters' Shield. The Sounders captured their first Western Conference title when they defeated the Colorado Rapids by an aggregate score of 3–1 on November 27, 2016, in Commerce City, Colorado. Then, on December 10, 2016 in front of a crowd of 36,000 at BMO Field, the Sounders won their first ever MLS Cup against Toronto FC in a penalty shootout by a score of 5–4. The following season - on December 9, 2017 - the Sounders returned to the MLS Cup against Toronto FC (held, once again, at BMO Field). This time, the Sounders lost the Cup to the home team by a score of 0–2. On November 10, 2019, the Sounders played in their third MLS Cup against Toronto FC, winning 3–1 to achieve their second title. The Sounders hosted the MLS Cup for the first time, and set a club-record attendance of 69,274.
In 2014 – the second regular season of the U.S. National Women's Soccer League – Seattle Reign FC attained the highest season point total of all nine league teams to receive their first NWSL Shield award. The Reign became the league's first team to repeat this achievement when they defeated the Boston Breakers at Memorial Stadium on August 26, 2015.
The Seahawks have won nine NFL division titles, including two in the AFC West and seven in the NFC West. They won the NFC championship in 2006, earning them their first trip to Super Bowl XL, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21–10. In 2014, the Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field, to clinch their second NFC title and a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII, where they routed the Denver Broncos 43–8 to win their first Lombardi trophy. The following season, the Seahawks overcame a deficit in the NFC championship game with the Green Bay Packers in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to claim their first back-to-back George Halas trophies. In Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the Seahawks missed the opportunity to claim their second Super Bowl win in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, falling to the New England Patriots by a score of 28–24.
A founding member of Major League Rugby, the Seattle Seawolves kicked off their inaugural season in 2018 and claimed the first-ever MLR Championship Shield. On June 16th, 2019, the Seawolves also claimed the second MLR title, defeating the San Diego Legion. The Seawolves will enter the 2020 season at their Starfire Sports Complex home field in an expanded 12-city league.
The Seattle Thunderbirds are a Major Junior league ice hockey team that plays at the ShoWare Center. The Thunderbirds arrived in Seattle in 1977 as the Seattle Breakers, before changing to their current name in 1985. They play in the Western Hockey League, one of three components of the Canadian Hockey League, traditionally a major feeder system for the NHL. The Thunderbirds won their first WHL Ed Chynoweth Cup on May 14, 2017, against the Regina Pats by a score of 4 games to 2.
Originally arriving in 1974, the men's soccer team Seattle Sounders played in Seattle until 1983 when the North American Soccer League collapsed due to overexpansion. The Seattle Sounders were brought back in 1994 and played in the USL First Division at what was then known as Qwest Field. Six years later the men's team was joined by a women's team of the same name (now known as the Seattle Sounder Angels) which plays in a nearby suburb, Tukwila. In 2008, the USL incarnation of the Sounders played its last season, and in 2009 Seattle Sounders FC began playing in MLS, America's top soccer division. The Sounders play league matches at the since-renamed CenturyLink Field, but use the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila for matches in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (except when they host the final). Reign FC was established in 2013 and compete in the National Women's Soccer League, playing at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma. It was originally named Seattle Reign FC, after a women's basketball team in the former American Basketball League, and played at Starfire and Memorial Stadium.
The Seattle Sockeye won the USA Ultimate Club Championships in 2004, 2006, and 2007. They won the gold medal at the World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC) in 1997 in Vancouver, British Columbia. They also won the silver medal at the World Ultimate Games (WUGC) in 2008 in Vancouver and at WUCC in 2010 in Prague, Czech Republic.
The Seattle Grizzlies won the USAFL Division 3 Title in 2017 as well as the Division 2 Title in 2008.
In 2017, the Seattle Seawolves became one of the founding teams of the newly-formed Major League Rugby. The Seawolves won back-to-back titles in the first two seasons of the league's existence, defeating the Glendale Raptors 23–19 in 2018 and San Diego Legion 26–23 in 2019.
College and high school sports
The University of Washington, Seattle University, and Seattle Pacific University field teams in a variety of sports, including football, basketball, and rowing. Their teams are known as the Huskies, Redhawks, and Falcons, respectively. The Husky football team has a following that ranks with those of the major professional teams in the city. In 1991, the Huskies shared an NCAA Division I collegiate football championship with the Hurricanes of the University of Miami. In 2005 the Huskies volleyball team won the NCAA National Championship.
A Huskies rowing team represented the United States at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany and defeated the Nazi Germany team to win the gold medal. The story was later chronicled in the 2013 book The Boys in the Boat.
|Washington Huskies||Football||Division I (Pac-12)||Husky Stadium|
|Washington Huskies||Basketball||Division I (Pac-12)||Hec Edmundson Pavilion|
|Seattle Redhawks||Basketball||Division I (WAC)||KeyArena, Connolly Complex|
High school and Youth sports
Rugby is growing in Seattle at the high school and youth level, with several schools adding programs, such as Shorecrest, Roosevelt and Nathan Hale High School.
Former major professional teams
The first professional team to play in Seattle was the PCHA Seattle Metropolitans, which played in the Seattle Ice Arena between 1915 and 1924. In 1967, the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics (more commonly known as the "Sonics") became the first modern-day major professional sports franchise in Seattle. However, in 2008, the Sonics' ownership group moved the team to Oklahoma City. In 1969, the Major League Baseball Seattle Pilots were established, but only played one year in Seattle before moving to Milwaukee. The Pilots' sole season was immortalized in Jim Bouton's book Ball Four.
|Club Name||Sport||League||Championships||In Seattle||Last venue||Fate|
|Seattle Metropolitans||Ice hockey||PCHA||1917 Stanley Cup||1915–1924||Seattle Ice Arena||Folded, league collapsed|
|Seattle Pilots||Baseball||MLB||none||1969||Sick's Stadium||Moved, became Milwaukee Brewers|
|Seattle SuperSonics||Basketball||NBA||1979 NBA||1967–2008||KeyArena||Moved, became Oklahoma City Thunder|
Other former teams
|Club||Sport||League||Championships||In Seattle||Last Venue||Fate|
|Everett Hawks||Indoor football||NWFL, NIFL, AF2||'03, '04 (NWFL), '04 (NAFL)||2002–2007||Comcast Arena||Folded|
|Everett Raptors||Indoor football||IFL||None||2010–2012||Comcast Arena||Folded|
|Seattle Mist||Indoor football||LFL||2015, 2017, 2019||2009–2019||ShoWare Center||League ceased operations|
|Seattle Reign||Women's basketball||ABL||None||1996–1998||Mercer Arena, KeyArena||League folded|
|Seattle SeaDogs||Indoor soccer||CISL||1997 CISL Championship||1995–1997||KeyArena||League folded|
|Snohomish Co. Explosion||Basketball||IBL, NABL||None||2007–2010||Monroe Sports Arena||Folded|
|Washington Stealth||Lacrosse||NLL||2010 Champion's Cup||2010–2013||Comcast Arena||Relocated|
|Seattle Totems||Ice hockey||CHL||Three Lester Patrick Cups (1959, 1967, 1968)||1944–1974||Seattle Center Coliseum||Folded|
Swimmer Helene Madison (1913–1970) of Seattle won three gold medals at the 1932 Olympic Games.
Seattle has been host to a number of important sporting events. It hosted the NFL Pro Bowl in 1977, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1979 and 2001, the NBA All-Star Game in 1974 and 1987, the MLS Cup in 2009 and 2019, the Goodwill Games in 1990 and the NCAA Final Four in 1984, 1989 and 1995. On July 22, 2017 at Key Arena, the Seattle Storm hosted the WNBA All-Star Game for the first time.
The Seattle Marathon has taken place annually since 1970.
Seattle has hosted several United States men's national soccer team and United States women's national soccer team events in the past, including men's FIFA World Cup qualifying matches in 1976 and 2013.
CenturyLink Field has hosted CONCACAF Gold Cup matches in 2005 and 2013. The stadium was also proposed as a 2016 Copa América venue and was considered, along with Husky Stadium, in the failed U.S. bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. CenturyLink Field is now one of several dozen U.S. venues being considered for the country's successful joint bid with Canada and Mexico for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Notes and references
- Murphy, Patricia (October 15, 2012). "King County And Seattle City Councils Say Yes To Sodo Arena". KUOW-FM. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
- "Seattle City Council Passes MOU for Oak View Group's $600M+ KeyArena Redevelopment". seattlebusinessmag.com. December 4, 2017. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
- "Seattle can begin NHL expansion process". NHL.com. December 7, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
- "NHL Seattle CEO on deadlines, creating an 'epic' bowl in KeyArena". king5.com. July 11, 2018. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
- Abdeldaiem, Alaa (December 4, 2018). "NHL Board of Governors Approve Seattle Expansion Team". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
- Monahan, Terry (June 16, 2019). "Seawolves repeat as Major League Rugby champions with try as time expires". The Seattle Times. Retrieved June 16, 2019.
- Stricherz, Vince (June 2, 2013). "New book tells stirring story of UW crew winning Olympic gold". UW Today. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- "Seattle Launching Single-School HS 7s Competition", Gof Rugby Report, December 8, 2015.
- Halverson, Matthew (June 20, 2012). "Inside Seattle's Unsuccessful Bid for the 2012 Olympics". Seattle Metropolitan. Retrieved November 2, 2015.
- Petterson, Joel (June 9, 2013). "It's been a long, successful road back to Seattle for U.S. Soccer". The Seattle Times. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "CenturyLink Field to Host Gold Cup Matches on July 11". Seattle Sounders FC. March 13, 2013. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "USA Bid Committee Announces List of 27 Cities Still in Contention For Inclusion in U.S. Bid to Host FIFA World Cup™ in 2018 or 2022". USSoccer.com. United States Soccer Federation. August 20, 2009. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
- "Centennial Cup America 2016 Venue Selection Process Draws Interest from 24 Metropolitan Areas across U.S." (Press release). CONCACAF. January 8, 2015. Retrieved September 4, 2015.