Sounders' New Training Center Will House The Franchise Now. It Could Host A World Cup Team In 2026

The whirlpool room is seen during a media tour of Seattle Sounders FC's new state-of-the-art headquarters, opened in time for the organization's 50th anniversary season, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Renton, Wash. The Sounders' new training center will house the franchise now. It could host a World Cup team in 2026. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)
The whirlpool room is seen during a media tour of Seattle Sounders FC's new state-of-the-art headquarters, opened in time for the organization's 50th anniversary season, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Renton, Wash. The Sounders' new training center will house the franchise now. It could host a World Cup team in 2026. (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times via AP)
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RENTON, Wash. (AP) — For now, the primary purpose of the Seattle Sounders' training center that opened Tuesday will be to help the team remain among the MLS elite.

Looking ahead, it’s likely the new headquarters will be a coveted base camp for one of the participants in the 2026 World Cup.

“I think any club or country that walks through it is going to want to be here,” Sounders general manager Craig Waibel said. “It’ll be special for us to be able to share this with someone else from somewhere else in the world. It’ll be really nice to get their feedback, how they view things.”

The Sounders' first training session at the site, once a thoroughbred racetrack and formerly part of Boeing’s headquarters, was the culmination of years of work.

The World Cup has also been part of the conversation throughout the development process. Seattle will host six games at Lumen Field during the tournament, including one group stage game featuring the United States. Up the road, Vancouver, British Columbia, will host another seven games.

The U.S. is expected to base itself at its new training center under construction outside Atlanta, but the Sounders' facility is likely going to be a desired destination for any country that ends up playing games in Seattle, Vancouver, the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles.

“It reminded me of facilities we trained at with the national team as we’d go around the country and train at different facilities,” Seattle’s Jordan Morris said.

The facility replaces the Starfire Sports Complex that had been Seattle’s training center since the franchise got its start in 2009. It also combines the Sounders' on-field and business operations in the same location for the first time.

The facility features four full-sized fields. There’s also a massive gym space with weights, treadmills and exercise bikes. The recovery areas include separate rooms with cold tubs, a cryogenic chamber, a hyperbaric chamber and a sauna with a television inside.

Seattle’s Cristian Roldan was on the U.S. squad at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and, while the team had all those amenities, they were at the hotel, not where the Americans trained on the field.

"This can almost act as a hotel and facility in a way, right?” Roldan said. “Players are probably not going to want to leave to get the extra recovery, especially during a World Cup where you’re playing three games in eight days and you’re having to recover very fast. It has all the neat toys.”

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AP MLS: https://apnews.com/hub/major-league-soccer