Seattle Times beat writer Joshua Mayers has a Q&A with Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer up on his blog, and though the entire thing is worth a read one quote stands out from the rest:
I think we're leaning towards opening up the Hawks' Nest, which would bring capacity up to about 38,500 or something like that.
Despite that being a relatively modest 5% increase in total seating capacity, that's still pretty big news. The Hawks' Nest is the only part of the stadium in the lower bowl or either end zone not currently open for all MLS play and it has typically stayed closed for all Sounders games aside from the team's friendlies. For the Sounders to take such a step would imply that they are quite certain there is sufficient demand to fill the section; the Hawks' Nest is currently home to a very large, visible and lucrative advertisement for Xbox 360. The team would not be willing to turn down that advertising revenue lightly.
No matter what ends up being the case, the fact that the option is on the table is pretty excellent news. The Sounders have broken the MLS attendance record in each of the three years they've been in the league and after their most successful season to date (disappointing end notwithstanding) and the conservative manner in which the club has typically gone about opening additional seating there's little reason to think demand hasn't increased measurably ahead of next season. Given the state of soccer in this country ten years ago it's pretty crazy to think that a team believes it can sell 38,500 seats for every league match, and if you're a fan of the game it's something worth celebrating.