Sounders to move minor league affiliate matches to Tacoma

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The Seattle Sounders FC will move their minor league affiliate's matches to Tacoma's Cheney Stadium in 2018.

The announcement involving S2 was made late Wednesday afternoon at Doyle's Public House in Tacoma.

The franchise's training grounds will remain in Tukwila, where the team was founded in 2014. It has played in the United Soccer League at the Starfire Sports Complex, drawing sparse crowds during that time.

That's one of the reasons the Sounders are making the strategic move to the south.

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"We're going to get better crowds and better participation," Sounders FC General Manager Garth Lagerwey said prior to the announcement.

The franchise has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tacoma Rainiers to build a soccer-specific stadium adjacent to Cheney. The Mariners AAA affiliate will handle the business side of arrangement while the Sounders will handle the technical and player development side of things.

Lagerwey also says the environment alone will likely be part of the draw.

"Other than moving the mound out and making sure it's a flat surface, you can play soccer in a baseball stadium," he said with a smile.

He noted that the pitch configuration will put it up against Cheney's third base line, close to the already popular party decks, meaning "those fans are going to be right up on top of the action."

S2 is a squad made up of academy and developmental players that Lagerwey refers to as the "stars of tomorrow." He noted in particular 20-year-old Nouhou Tolo, who starred for S2 before coming to the Sounders FC.

The move is an unexpected bonus for Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who fully acknowledged the city wasn't envisioning this when it decided to spend $30 million on a Cheney renovation in 2011.

"(It) was really about saving minor league baseball," she said. "This is a pleasant surprise."

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Now, the ideas are greater for Tacoma's west side. There is talk the soccer specific stadium, once constructed, could be part of a project to re-energize that side of the city.

"It's important for us to think big and to make sure we have really high standards for what we build in our city," said Strickland.

The team will be called S2 in 2018, but it will likely be re-branded with a Tacoma name after that.

The Rainiers and the Sounders still have to work out full details for the soccer specific stadium, including the exact location. The parking lots on both sides of Cheney have been under consideration.