The Sporting Life

Seattle Sounders FC Has a Whole New Look—and Everyone's Mad

The soccer team has officially partnered with Seattle-based e-commerce company Zulily as a new jersey sponsor. It's the first changeup of its kind in the franchise's entire 10-year history.

By Rosin Saez February 7, 2019

X-Box's contract is up with the Sounders. So, in comes Zulily.

A semi-mysterious tweet emerged on January 16 from the Seattle Sounders FC Twitter: a single, green soccer jersey hanging in a low-lit locker room. The next day brought more cryptic imagery on Twitter, this time in the marketing form of players' lockers with, again, gear on display but now intentionally placed around town: one at Pike Place Market, another in the Capitol Hill Sound Transit Station with a countdown clock on top, Westlake had one too. 

All this to tease the new Sounders gear and, most crucially, the new primary jersey sponsor for which there's been lots of speculation. Some fans guessed Boeing and Ivar's. Others just prayed which companies weren't the sponsor, like a DNA test episode of the Maury Show. "Playstation? Nintendo? Capcom? ANYTHING BUT STARBUCKS OR AMAZON," said one tweet (capitalization emphasis and pleading theirs).

After a 17-month hunt, on January 17 the MLS team's owners announced that they've inked a multiyear deal with local online retailer Zulily. Zulily has also signed on to sponsor Seattle's former women's pro soccer team, Reign FC, that's decamped to Tacoma. 

Sounders keeper Stefan Frei in his goalie jersey.

This is the first time in the Sounders' 10-year history that the sponsorship's changed. (Redmond-based X-Box is the team's former sponsor.)

Reactions to the new look were overwhelmingly negative, with descriptions like "kale barf" and the simple, yet effective "trash" observation. Many bemoaned the Zulily cursive font—too feminine, ew. Someone even likened it to "going to battle with a tiara on," while another person with basic photo-editing skills replaced "Zulily" with the Tampax logo. Yes, really. And things got whinier still.  "Diehard" fans proclaimed their readiness to boycott the new look and in some cases even disown the team if the jersey didn't change because fandom is, but of course, measured by willingness to jump ship.

But defenders of the jersey noted that sponsors are there to bring in cashflow. The Seattle Times reports that the new deal with Zulily "could push the Sounders up near that $6 million figure," on par with other MLS franchises. Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer didn't disclose the value of the deal, but said it's larger than the previous one.

The jersey's camouflage pattern—still in so-called "Rave Green" though it seems a smidge darker—adds some visual variety and some texture, which is a departure from soccer kit canon. But it reads kind of like a kids' dinosaur costume. And maybe it's the pattern, but goalkeeper Stefan Frei's shirt in orange (above) looks pretty good.

But, listen, we survived the 2010–13 years when the neon highlighter yellow and blue jerseys burned unsuspecting retinas everywhere. Everything is fine. Better still: We have a MLS team that's in the city proper, and a damn good one.

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