When the Sounders became an MLS franchise in 2009, they set their sights on winning a trophy - any trophy. With a strong history in the US Open Cup as a USL side, it made sense that they would put an emphasis on the knockout tournament. It didn't matter that the Open Cup was treated as a nuisance by most MLS teams; the title would not only give them tangible success in their first top-tier season, but brought with it a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Sounders set off on their Cup campaign with intent and capped off their run by beating DC United at RFK stadium for their first piece of silverware as an MLS franchise.
Meanwhile, their fans were with them every step of the way.
There was bitterness when RFK was granted the right to host the final, but that didn't stop a strong contingent of supporters in Rave Green from showing up in DC. Though no one else seemed to, Sounders fans gave respect to a tournament that deserves it so rarely gets it. Seattle continues to support just about everything the Sounders do, so perhaps it's more a matter of embracing it all rather than picking out the US Open Cup. Either way, credit to the fans.
It might not be just matter of showing up no matter what, however.
In 2010, the Sounders repeated themselves, making another Final. This time, Qwest was chosen to host the game, and speculation immediately began that Seattle would break the USOC Final attendance record. From the high teens the number of tickets sold crept up above 20,000. Soon enough, the number reached 23,000. Today, various outlets reported that only 3,000 tickets remained for the lower bowl, the portion of the stadium to which club had limited capacity.
In response to demand, the Sounders have increased the number of tickets they'll sell to for the US Open Cup Final ("increasing capacity" per Seattle Times reporter Joshua Mayers on Twitter) to 32,400. That's the same number of seats they filled when they began their inaugural campaign in 2009; after blowing the record for USOC Final attendance out of the water with pre-sales, the Sounders and their fans just kept on going.
So we'll have a proper atmosphere for an Open Cup Final, no matter what the final number of tickets sold turns out to be, and the expansion of capacity is a strong commentary on the commitment of the Sounders fans to their team no matter the competition. It won't change the tenor of the competition in future years, but it does represent progress. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that Seattle will make the final every season, so a precipitous drop in next year's final attendance should be expected. This is a one-off, a bright moment in the Open Cup's recent history that those of us who enjoy the tournament, and hope to see it get stronger, should savor. Maybe, by some small chance, the enthusiasm Sounders fans have for the tournament and the final will rub off on others fans around the league. It's unrealistic to expect earlier round cup games in midweek black holes to draw much better, but if the final is appropriately attended, that would be a wonderful thing.
Sounders fans have figured out that the chance to see one's club with a title doesn't come too often. Hats off to them.