Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer spoke a bit today about the club’s decision to include only the 17 MLS regular-season games in the 2013 season-ticket package.
Over the first four seasons, at least one international friendly has been included. Hanauer clarified today that the club may still schedule such a match, but that it simply won’t be part of the package.
“We’ve obviously done a bunch of friendlies over the years, they’ve gone really well, we enjoy doing them,” Hanauer said. “But at the same time, we’ve listened to our fans. We’ve heard – it’s of course mixed – but some of the feedback is ‘We’re way more interested in competitive games than exhibitions.’ Although, again, the dichotomy there is Champions League – which is a competition – versus a friendly. But regardless, we decided that we would just go with the 17-game season-ticket package.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t do a friendly. It’s still possible. But we would sell it as a one-off. Also, for us it helps a little bit not being locked in. If there’s a good opportunity with the right terms, we can do it. If we get pushed into a corner to accept certain terms from a big club around Europe that thinks they can dictate terms, we can say thanks but not thanks, because we won’t be forced to do a game.
“… Negotiating with a big European club that already kind of thinks they can dictate terms – especially when they see that we have a game scheduled in the summer, and they know we have to do one – it’s negotiating from a position of weakness. We’d love to do those games in the future if the right team comes. But it’s got to be the right terms and the right situation for our club and our fans. We’re too proud and successful to not have more say in how the process plays out.
“… There are a ton of different issues. There is the surface. There is the date of the game and the start time. There are sponsor issues, there are ticketing issues, suite/hospitality things, things that we might want to do in the community related to it that have to be discussed. There was the World Football Challenge – those issues. So, there are any number of areas where we have to come to terms, and it will just be easier if we can say, ‘Look, this is what we need to do a game. If you don’t want to do it: No problem.’”
Sounders ticket sales have climbed in each of their first four seasons, and Hanauer said he thinks the lack of a friendly as part of the season-ticket package could help continue that trend going next season.
“We think there’s a better opportunity by not requiring fans to buy into an 18th game that has a premium price on it to begin with and for which they don’t know what their buying,” he said. “We tell them to trust us, and eventually we get to a point where we’ve got a team to play against. (Three MLS games in a special ticket package this season) will be bigger crowds than the Chelsea game … (but) that sort of tells us that there’s plenty of opportunity to bulk up and improve with competitive games, not necessarily the friendlies.”
Hanauer said he doesn’t yet know about ticket pricing for next season.
This season, the Sounders drew 53,309 for a mid-summer friendly against European champion Chelsea. However, they drew 60,908 for a league match against the LA Galaxy, 55,718 for a league match against Vancouver, and already have sold around 62,000 for an Oct. 7 league match against Portland.