SEATTLE - I originally intended to have this post up well before I left town Thursday night to embark on a two-sport swing through Cascadia. Alas, because of a big pile of non-soccer work I had to take care of after coming home from BlazerCon, I'm sitting in a downtown Seattle hotel room posting a transcript of an exclusive interview I had in Brooklyn with Sounders co-owner Joe Roth.

I'm not even in Seattle for a soccer-related purpose. I came to cover the Penn men's basketball team's game against the University of Washington on Saturday afternoon. But I will be in Portland on Sunday to cover the first leg of the Western Conference final between the Timbers and FC Dallas. I hope to have a column up in a few days about what the Union can learn from Dallas coach Oscar Pareja's outstanding commitment to developing and playing young talent.

(Here's a hint: They can learn a lot.)

Until then, here's a conversation with one of the most influential club owners in MLS. Roth recently relinquished some of his power with (by relinquishing some of his ownership stake in) the Sounders to Adrian Hanauer, the former GM who now sits at the very top of the hierarchy. But Roth will continue to play an important role, not least because he has the big money that brought stars like Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins to Seattle. He still has that checkbook, even if he won't always be the one signing the checks anymore.

When Roth and I met up, he had just finished speaking at a panel with Orlando Phil Rawlins and New England's Jonathan Kraft about what MLS will look like in 20 years. Yet as so often happens with the Sounders, it was hard to balance talk of the future against the importance of the present.

I was listening to your remarks on stage, and one of the things that all three of you on the panel agreed about was that over time, there's going to be a dramatic increase in the salary cap in MLS. In the recent collective bargaining negotiations, as always happens during that process, the salary cap was a point of contention - and the cap was not raised -


... as much as some fans wanted, certainly. If there is to be - even in the medium term of not the short term - a dramatic raise in the salary cap, what do you think has to happen?

Well, what's going on in the league now is that new [ownership] players - the players who've had the luck of timing to come in late like us, and teams that have come in after us - are more interested in raising the salary cap. And so I think the way it works in general is the more new teams that come in, I think the more the salary cap is going to go up.

And to those owners who have been around for a long time - Jonathan Kraft was one, and I'm sure that his fan base will be very happy to hear what he said - to those who are a little resistant, whoever they may be, how do you make the case that yes, we are at the point where we can do this?

Well, listen. My heart goes out to people who were here 10 years before I was. And I think that in order to re-do your team, you've got to build a new stadium and have a restart.

People who look at the Sounders from afar, especially on the eastern side of the country, are very impressed by not only the fan base, but the way the ownership is structured. The fact that you have this alliance of fans that has a say in the retention of the general manager, and other things like that. For you, how important is it to have that kind of a structure within your team?

I think it's really important. I think it's one of the reasons why we've been successful. The city named the team, the people picked the seats they wanted to be in, and there's a march to the match every week. We have an alliance of 40 people who meet four times a year, and we meet with them twice a year. They have a lot to say, and we listen to what they have to say.

People tell me, "Gee, what a great marketing job you did." We didn't market it at all. The fact of the matter is, people want authenticity. We don't organize or produce anything. They just do it themselves.

What do you make of the fact that the MLS-related events have drawn the biggest crowds at BlazerCon? The Men in Blazers show was first about the English Premier League before it was about American soccer as it has become over time. It was created by the culture of European soccer fans in the United States. So to have that much interest in MLS among this crowd, what does it mean to you?

Yeah, I was very impressed with it. It reminds me of my other business, which is the film business, and Comic-Con. That started out kind of like this in San Diego, and now it's an enormous event. I have a feeling this one will be that too. It would take the Europeans to start it, but I think it's going to become a stable entity.

I heard Phil Rawlins say his wish for MLS 20 years from now is that all the stadiums won't have gridiron lines on them anymore. There was a lot of celebratory from the fans in the room when he said that, so I didn't quite hear everything you said right afterward. What did you think of Rawlins' remark?

Listen, I hate it [having gridiron lines on the field]. I absolutely hate it. We do everything we can to not have it. We probably have it once or twice a year, when we just can't work out the schedule. And I think it's awful.

Are the Sounders, in that way, perhaps something of a victim of their own success? Are they so successful that they have to be in a stadium of CenturyLink Field's size?

Yeah, I wouldn't say it's being a victim, I'd say it makes it a lot harder in terms of scheduling. And if something happens in the league where we have to re-schedule something, there's a good chance we're going to have football lines.

Every now and again, people ask me if I think the Sounders are going to get their own stadium at some point. I know that land costs a lot in Seattle, and there isn't much of it to spare. But is it something that you see happening eventually?

Well, we talk about it all the time, and I can't get past the math. We're going to have 45,000, we're going to have 50,000 people a game, right? To build a soccer-specific stadium like they have in Europe, they have 30,000 or 35,000 or 27,000. What am I going to do? I don't want to double the prices, and tell 20,000 people that they can't come anymore. It's just not the Sounders' way.

It's been confirmed that the turf at CenturyLink Field is finally getting replaced this offseason with a new artificial surface. The one that's there now has been worn down so that it's now very flat, as happened with the artificial surface before it. Whether or not CenturyLink Field will ever be able to take a grass field, do you foresee the Sounders being able to have more of a say with the Seahawks about what surface goes in there?

There has long been chatter that the Seahawks like the surface to be shorter than the Sounders want it, because a short turf blade is better for football, whereas a longer turf blade is better for soccer because it plays more like real grass. And I've heard that the Seahawks have much of the proverbial vote on the matter.

No, we work together. Whoever can come up with the best technology to have the best turf, it serves us both. So we'll do the best we can, and we'll change it every time it gets flat. Because it does get flat, and God knows we wish we played on grass. But I think the technology of the turf is going to get better, and we see it equally. It serves us both.