Seattle sports fans were smarting at the decade’s outset. The Sonics had stuck a Space Needle into their fans’ backs when the franchise uprooted to Oklahoma City before the 2008–09 season. The Seahawks had won a total of nine games over two years. And the Mariners hadn’t made the playoffs since 2001.
But the city would cultivate a more robust and diversified sports culture during the 2010s. The Seahawks won their first Super Bowl and missed the playoffs just twice. Sounders FC took home two MLS Cups and built a rabid fanbase. The Storm added two more WNBA championships. The University of Washington made the College Football Playoff. And the Mariners…OK, better luck next decade.
As the city prepares to add a hockey team in 2021 and its soccer scene continues to grow, Seattle is ready for another riveting sports decade. Before we get to the 2020s, though, here’s a chronological look back at some of Seattle’s top sports feats of the ’10s.
The Storm sweep to the ‘ship. No, it didn’t make up for the Sonics leaving, but the Storm’s WNBA title in 2010 reminded Seattle that this hadn’t been a one-team hoops town, anyway. The WNBA squad became the city’s first two-time professional sports champions by taking down the Atlanta Dream, 87-84. Behind regular season MVP Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird, and Swin Cash, the Storm won all seven of its playoff games after five straight first-round exits. With Jackson’s WNBA career halted by injuries and Cash traded to Chicago, it would be a little while before the Storm could replicate this kind of a run.
King Félix gets his Cy. Félix Hernández had already established himself as an ace by the start of the Mariners’ 2010 season, but his pitching prowess became a seamhead conversation-starter in his sixth season. He was not only tossing gem after gem, toting just a 2.27 ERA while racking up 249-and-two-thirds innings, but he was also doing so on a terrible team. The Mariners won just 61 games in 2010, and the offense was dead last in runs scored. Relatedly, Hernández’s record was a mediocre 13-12. But when it came time to pick the American League’s Cy Young Award winner, voters ignored the traditional barometer of pitching success and focused on the more telling advanced stats, selecting Hernández and ushering in a decade of data-ball.
The Seahawks win their first Super Bowl. Pure domination. There was little drama in the Seahawks’ 43-8 pummeling of the Denver Broncos on February 2, 2014. The game started with Broncos center Manny Ramirez launching a snap over Peyton Manning’s head and into the end zone for a safety, and things didn’t improve much from there for Denver’s high-powered attack. This, of course, wasn’t surprising to the 12s who had watched Pete Carroll build a stifling defense since taking over as coach in 2010. With Russell Wilson at the helm, the offense wasn’t too shabby, either. NFL.com recently named the 2013 Seahawks as the best team of the ’10s.
The Hawks go back-to-back in the NFC. After winning the Super Bowl the previous season, no Seattle football diehard was going to be satisfied with just an NFC championship during the 2014 season. And the way that the team would go on to lose the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots in February 2015 (a botched playcall from the one-yard line) still haunts Hawks fans. But an improbable comeback from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers during a frenetic NFC championship game is not an event worth glossing over. With just over two minutes to play in the final period, Wilson scored from one yard out. A successful onside kick led to a 24-yard touchdown scamper by Marshawn Lynch, giving the Seahawks the lead. The Packers tied the game a minute later, but it wouldn’t be enough: Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a game-winning 35-yard score in overtime. With the Pro Bowl QB locked up well into the 2020s, the Hawks are prepared for plenty more Super Bowl runs.
Sounders FC take the MLS Cup. After making their MLS debut in 2009, the Sounders won three consecutive U.S. Open Cups, but the league’s championship had eluded them. That changed in 2016 when the soccer squad defeated Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Cup. The game was scoreless after regulation and, following a glorious save by goalkeeper Stefan Frei, remained so as extra time came to a close. In penalties, Román Torres scored the decisive goal for the Sounders. The club hasn’t stopped making noise since.
UW claims the Pac-12 and a Playoff spot. When the University of Washington hired Chris Petersen in December 2013, college football fans across the country wondered if he could repeat his Boise State success at a power-conference school. It didn’t take long for them to get an answer. In Petersen’s third season in Seattle, the Huskies won the Pac-12 championship and advanced to the College Football Playoff, ultimately falling to the University of Alabama, 24-7. UW followed up its 12-win 2016 with 10-win seasons in 2017 and 2018, the latter bringing another Pac-12 title and further establishing the school as a college football power. In 2019, the team took a step back, winning just eight games, and Petersen decided to step aside, leaving Jimmy Lake to oversee the next era of Husky football.
Another WNBA Finals sweep for the Storm. The Storm’s 2018 championship was both a coronation and a tribute. League MVP Breanna Stewart was vindicated in the Finals after first-round defeats in her first two seasons, dropping 30 in the team’s 98-82 clinching victory over the Washington Mystics. And Sue Bird, who began her career with the Storm in 2002, put up 10 points and 10 assists while donning a mask to protect a broken nose. Bird’s jersey will hang in the rafters some day; hopefully, it will be at a revived KeyArena.
Seattle attracts an NHL team. The puck won’t drop until 2021, but in December 2018, the NHL announced that it would be awarding its 32nd franchise to Seattle. The last year-plus has been a honeymoon period for the club as KeyArena undergoes renovations and Seattleites ready themselves for another winter professional sport. The team’s name will be set in early 2020, a lock to be party fodder for the foreseeable future. We would recommend the Seattle Mets, an homage to the Seattle Metropolitans hockey team from a century ago and a certain magazine, but a down-on-its-luck baseball team from Queens is giving us some serious second thoughts.
Sounders resound with another title. As the decade comes to a close, a very strong argument could be made that the Sounders have become the number two professional team in town. The Sounders averaged nearly 43,000 fans per game from 2013 to 2018, according to an International Centre for Sports Studies report, while the Mariners haven’t topped 30,000 since the Sounders started playing in the MLS. And that was before the local footballers took down Toronto FC 3-1 in an MLS Cup rematch this November in front of a record 69,274 at CenturyLink Field. There’s no doubt the pitch is of high interest in Seattle these days.
Rapinoe fought for equal pay, won a World Cup, and was named Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. Yeah, we’re claiming all of the longtime Seattle resident’s accomplishments in 2019. Rapinoe spearheaded the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s fight for equal pay and scored six goals during the team’s World Cup run in France, striking a legendary celebration pose after one of those shots. Rapinoe became a cultural phenomenon nationwide, one part beloved athlete and one part political lightning bolt. The former was no surprise to Seattleites who have followed her time as a forward for Reign FC. Did we mention she’s dating Sue Bird? In 2019, there isn’t a better example of Seattle’s thriving sports ecosystem in 2019 than that duo.