OUTDOORS: Statement win for Sounders, cup hopes

The size and scope of the biggest win in Sounders FC franchise history/the entire 25-plus year existence of Major League Soccer is even more impressive than the nearly 69,000 fans who packed the big stadium in Seattle on a school night to take it all in.

And that crowd in full fury was impressive.

Seattle’s 3-0 win over UNAM Pumas of Mexico City (5-2 on aggregate in the two-match series) Wednesday night was the stuff of dreams for fans, players, coaches and league executives — capping a sterling run of recent successes that has seen the team make repeated runs to the MLS Cup in recent seasons.

The Sounders broke through as the first MLS side ever to win the CONCACAF (North and Central America and the Carribean) title, breaking the stranglehold Mexican sides have had on the trophy dating back to 2008. That includes four straight losses by MLS squads.

Seattle’s triumph provides access to the FIFA Club World Cup, competing against the champions of Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and Oceania. They’ll face at least one global giant in Liverpool or Real Madrid (who will face each other in the European Champions League Final on May 28).

Taking the field against such a prestigious team in competition is a wholesale different deal for the Sounders than inviting these squads for summer exhibition games, glorified scrimmages, essentially.

And that massive crowd provided a vivid representation of what Seattle would bring to the table fan-wise for the upcoming 2026 World Cup in the U.S. and Canada if the Emerald City is selected as a host site.

Columbus, Ohio, typically gets to host the most important U.S. Men’s National Team games, owing to a run of big historical results in World Cup qualifying matches including the 2-0 (dos a cero) win over Mexico in 2001.

But the potential of a sold-out 70,000-strong rabid crowd for a U.S. group stage game in Seattle — or even better, a knockout-round game — has to look enormously appetizing to FIFA.

Elwha stays shut

No surprise here: The moratorium on recreational and commercial fishing on the Elwha River has been extended through July 1, 2023.

Repopulating the river is a slow process, one likely to take longer than the year extension authored by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Olympic National Park.

Not enough natural-origin chinook are returning, and some species have yet to colonize the upper reaches of the river, both required if fishing is to return.

“Recreational and commercial fishing will resume when there is broad distribution of spawning adults in newly accessible habitats upstream of the former dam sites, when spawning occurs at a rate that allows for population growth and diversity, and when there is a harvestable surplus of fish returning to the Elwha River,” a Fish and Wildlife press release states.

“While there are positive signs of recovery, some fish populations remain low and the lack of habitat use in the upper reach of the river indicates that further recolonization and spatial expansion are needed to reach population levels capable of supporting sustainable fisheries.”

To report poachers on the Elwha, call Fish and Wildlife at 360-902-2936, the tribe at 360-452-6759 or Olympic National Park at 360-565-3115.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at [email protected] news.com.

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