Soccer League Rejects Sounders' Plan; Two Will Compete To Sell Season Tickets

In rejecting a proposal by the Seattle Sounders, Major League Soccer officials have decided to begin a ticket drive next month at the same time the Sounders will start their campaign.

The competing season-ticket campaigns means two separate groups will be canvassing the state's soccer community for support - an arrangement that could benefit both sides, if kept friendly.

The danger is that the season-ticket drives will become adversarial, with the Sounders and MLS splitting the area's soccer support - with neither side gaining the season tickets they need to reach their goals.

Cliff McCrath, who is spearheading the MLS ticket drive for local soccer leaders, pledged to support the Sounders' efforts. He said that in the process of trying to get 10,000 deposits for MLS tickets for the inaugural 1995 season, volunteers will also recommend season tickets for the Sounders, who begin play in July.

McCrath offered to give the Sounders the names of those who made MLS deposits, if MLS does not award Seattle a team in June.

"I don't see any conflict at all," McCrath said.

Alan Hinton, president of the Sounders, foresees problems. Besides confusion in the marketplace about the separate ticket drives, he doubts soccer fans will pay for season tickets to the Sounders and sign up for MLS tickets.

Hinton lashed out at MLS for yesterday rejecting the Sounders' proposal, to funnel the MLS ticket drive through the Sounders' campaign. Sounder Chairman Scott Oki had promised to turn over ticket money to MLS if the goal of 10,000 was reached, and if they fell short, those deposits would be converted into Sounder season tickets.

"I guess the MLS has no sensitivity to what we're trying to do with the Seattle Sounders," Hinton said.

MLS rejected the Sounders' proposal because "we have to treat all the cities the same," said Bill Sage, chief operating officer of MLS. None of the other 30 cities that have expressed interest in bidding for a team have been allowed to integrate their sales efforts with another professional club.

Season tickets for MLS, a Division I league that plans to use top U.S. players, will be priced in the area of $150 for adults ($75 for youth) for 14 home games, Sage said. The league is asking for commitments of $75 for adults and $35 for children, which would only be deposited if MLS grants Seattle a team.

The Sounders have not announced ticket prices but are expected to be in the same range for a schedule of 12 home games. The Sounders will play in the American Professional Soccer League, a Division II league comparable to baseball's minor leagues.

McCrath said that by the end of April he hopes to know whether Seattle has acquired enough commitments to get an MLS team. Applications are due May 15.

"If we get 7,000 to 8,000, we've got a go," Hinton said. "If there's only 3,000 to 4,000, we don't."