We’ll soon find out what the Sounders are worth

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The Seattle Sounders are hands down — sorry Portland and everywhere else — the success story of Major League Soccer as a young league. They lead the league in attendance and in-stadium passion (if, perhaps, not passion per person).

And they had one of the first major jersey sponsors (xBox), which leads us inextricably to today’s topic: The deal runs out at the end of the 2013 season, and majority owner Joe Roth doesn’t sound too optimistic about resigning with the Microsoft. In fact, he sounds downright negative about the prospect.

A block quote to get us started:

“They’ve just had a very unimaginative conversation over the course of the past year. They see things differently than we do. …They’ve been great partners, and I wish they’d stay on. I wish they would see it the same way that we do… If it was close, we would have caved like an accordion. I came to believe after a long series of negotiations that they weren’t interested.”

And that’s fine. xBox is allowed to make business decisions, as are the Sounders. But it will be interesting to see how much the club can command on the open market. The Galaxy lead MLS at $4.4 million per season. The Sounders will be looking to get more than that for their shirts.

And here’s hoping they do so because this is more than just a Sounders issue. The relative success or failure of Seattle to sign a new sponsor for multiple millions will be felt league-wide. Television ratings are improving, but not quickly enough to drive huge new deals with the networks. One way to make up for that lack of cash is to sign jersey sponsors for increasing amounts of money. (It’s a drop in the bucket compared to a massive television contract, but a $5 million-plus-sized drop ain’t too shabby, you know?)

The bottom line: Other teams will be watching the Sounders closely to see how the negotiations go, hoping for dollar signs and lots of them.