After another MLS Cup loss, what to make of the Sounders as a dynasty?

Posted By Harrison Hamm on December 16, 2020

For the third time in the past five years, the Seattle Sounders just got dominated in an MLS Cup final.

They won in spite of that domination in 2016, famously failing to put a shot on goal and then winning on penalties. However, they lost convincingly the other two times. Over the weekend, they lost 3-0 to a shorthanded Columbus Crew team. 

That they’ve managed to appear in four MLS Cups in five years (they beat Toronto last year) inspires some interesting dilemmas. Namely: What is their status in MLS history, and should they be considered a dynasty? I tried to tackle the question a year ago, after the Sounders improved to 2-1 in their Cup appearances. I didn’t come away with a clear answer.

Are the Sounders dynasty material?

They are now 2-2 in their final appearances. That puts them in precarious dynasty territory. There have been two clear dynasties in MLS history: the early D.C. United years, in which DCU won three of the first four Cups, appeared in another, and added two Supporters’ Shields; and the turn-of-the-decade LA Galaxy, which won three of four Cups and two Shields. 

Seattle has no Shields since 2014, and just missed the chance to win three of four Cups. Part of being a dynasty, as I wrote last year, is maintaining a certain hold over a league. The Bruce Arena-Landon Donovan-Robbie Keane Galaxy can claim that, as can other dynasties in recent sports history. 

But dynasties are rare. There are not many in other sports, because dynasties do not happen all the time. Consider the example that I brought up in the article I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the Crew’s win: the 2010-14 Miami Heat, known as the “Heatles.” Those LeBron James teams went 2-2 in their four straight NBA Finals appearances. They were great teams, but they didn’t lord over the league, and they only managed two championships. There is an argument that considering their talent, they underperformed. It feels like a dynasty should win more than two titles.

So that means that for now, the Sounders should not be considered a dynasty. But they are not done. They will likely run back a similar core next season. The most important piece, Nicolas Lodeiro, signed a long-term extension recently. While Jordan Morris, a prominent part of this run, may have Europe on his horizon sooner rather than later, Seattle has shown to be good at seeking out replacements for good players. Just look at what they found at center back after they lost Chad Marshall and Kim Kee-Hee last year.

Seattle can still make another run

It’s hard to see the Sounders going away. This offseason will bring change throughout the league, as all offseasons do, but it’s not clear whether a legitimate juggernaut will form to take over the Sounders’ reign over the Western Conference. LAFC may lose Diego Rossi to a European transfer, in addition to possibly other players. No one else appears to be clearly capable, though contenders such as Sporting KC and Minnesota United will remain threats.

Seattle could win it all next season (or win a Supporters’ Shield, an equally if not more difficult trophy to win) and grab the dynasty label for good. There’s also something else they could do: win the Concacaf Champions League. Way back in February, they lost in penalties to Olimpia in the round of 16. They’ll be back in next year’s edition. If they become the first MLS team to triumph in the CCL, the Sounders can take any titles they want.

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