We’re preparing for March 8.” With that, Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi

We’re preparing for March 8.” With that, Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid asserted his team’s focus on the anticipated season-opening match on Sunday at CenturyLink, joining the faithful in the hope that the current negotiation between Major League Soccer and the players’ union won’t continue and, Pele forbid, result in a strike and the delay of opening day. (UPDATE: As of Wednesday afternoon, an agreement seems to have been reached, meaning the season should open as planned.)

The new season will see the Sounders organization taking big steps forward, swelling its influence in Seattle and in the league, for which it has broken attendance records every year since joining MLS in 2009. We’ll see a new lower-division Sounders affiliate team, S2, to further feed the city’s growing soccer addiction; the opening (date TBA) of a new fan center in Pioneer Square; and questions, lots of them, about how the team will follow its most successful season ever. (All but one of last year’s starting core are returning, so optimism abounds.)

Our preview package this week will help get you ready. If you’re a Seahawks fan wondering what to do now, and perhaps curious about that other sport in CenturyLink, Matt Driscoll explains it all for you (including how a final score of 1-0 can be so thrilling). Seth Kolloen considers the L.A. Galaxy: why they’ve been the Sounders’ worst nightmare come playoff time, and why that may change this year. Aaron Campeau looks behind the scenes of those contract negotiations. And I followed the team to a preseason tournament in Arizona, to report back on how the players look, how they feel, and the best slushies in the Southwest. Scarves up, Seattle! —GAVIN BORCHERT