Adrian Hanauer bought hosting rights this week to save wear on Sounders
Sounders were scheduled to play U.S. Open Cup match at Atlanta until a deal was made.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Atlanta vs. Seattle, at Starfire, 7 p.m.
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TUKWILA — The flight was going to be long. The cost was going to be steep. The logistics were going to be a nightmare.
That's what Sounders FC was facing when drawn to play on the road against the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
For a Seattle team that has already logged a lot of minutes and miles — both this season and over the past few — something had to be done.
The solution? Buying the hosting rights from Atlanta, and last week Sounders FC did just that.
Call it a loophole or even sidestepping the spirit of the competition, but general manager Adrian Hanauer said he was looking out for his team during negotiations with the second-division Silverbacks. And now, instead of scrambling across the country, the three-time Open Cup champion will kick off another trophy run at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.
The venue switch has drawn some ire around the country, even locally from some Sounders fans.
"I understand some people may feel that this is bypassing the system and playing against the rules, but, again, my priority is our team, our organization," said Hanauer, who said he didn't know hosting rights could be purchased until rival Portland negotiated a similar scenario last week. "We are willing to play within whatever rules are set by U.S. Soccer, but it's their tournament and we're going to do whatever we can to protect our brand and our organization in that process."
Since making the leap to MLS, Seattle has been the host for 11 of its 14 Open Cup-related games, including the past seven. Many felt the switch this year by U.S. Soccer to a blind draw in the early rounds, instead of the closed-envelope bidding process, would eliminate that advantage.
Coach Sigi Schmid said the deal with Atlanta benefited both teams.
"It's to our benefit because of just the amount of miles that we travel," he said. "We travel so many more miles and play so many more games than other teams do in our league. It's obviously to their benefit, as well, because they got something out of the deal in terms of cash ... that's greater than they thought they would do if they hosted the game. That's sort of a win-win situation."
Getting to Atlanta would have been difficult.
According to Schmid, the Sounders were unable to find a flight for the whole team Monday and would likely have had go on Sunday, one day after playing an MLS game at Chivas USA in Southern California. Not to mention, some players would have been traveling from Seattle and others from Los Angeles.
Hanauer estimated the travel costs would have been about $53,000 (teams are reimbursed $8,000 for travel by U.S. Soccer), which gave financial justification to pursuing the hosting rights.
"We would've been better off economically going to Atlanta — I can say that — but it wasn't that far off," Hanauer said.
The gesture wasn't lost on the Sounders players.
"It's huge. ... We're very grateful to the organization," said defender Zach Scott.
"It definitely helps out a lot," said Jeff Parke. "We could be in Atlanta right now. That's another 5 ½-hour flight, more hotels, more away time. It's good the team did that for us and we want to reward them with a good performance."
• Defender Leo Gonzalez remains out with a quad injury but could be available for a potential Open Cup game next week.
• Seattle would play at Portland in the fourth round if both teams advance. So has Hanauer explored buying potential hosting rights from the rival Timbers? "I already asked," he said with a laugh. "I don't think that's going to happen."
• Real Salt Lake also purchased hosting rights for this Open Cup round from a lower-division team.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.