Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Would, could, should MLS go to San Antonio?

In recent days I have run across a few posts talking about San Antonio getting back in the MLS game after soon-to-be former alcalde Phil Hardberger gets his you-know-what replaced in May's mayoral election.

The best piece on this, including historic background and comments from all four mayoral candidates, is to be found in this piece by TJ at MLS Daily. Another nice one by Jason D is over at Match Fit USA here.

As a former resident and frequent visitor to the Alamo City, I have to say I find the idea appealing to say the least. For all the reasons TJ and Jason cite, San Antonio would be an ideal market. I have no desire to go over them all, but my favorites they point out are:

<> How much better a market SA is than, say, Portland;

<> The instant triangular rivalry with Dynamo and Frisco (see the NBA template for how this would work); and

<> How close San Antonio was to getting the franchise that eventually went to Toronto.

To this I would add how great it would be to have two away sites within easy reach, and Robertson West would be even closer than Robinson North is now, not to mention in a FAR better city.

Though I have to say, I am getting a little leery of all of this expansion. So I actually would rather see las chivitas move to South Texas (CD Chivas SA?) than a brand new team. Heck, I'd even rather FC Frisco move to SA than have a brand new team. Don't laugh. Did you see how many showed up for that home opener, an "announced" gathering of 6,000 mostly bored popcorn vendors and front office staff.

As Jason writes:

As long as the ownership group is solid, and the team and city can come to an agreement on getting a SSS built as soon as possible, San Antonio has all the making of a fantastic MLS market.

The league needs to pick it spots, not punch above its weight, and be sure that the markets it enters have the proper characteristics and infrastructure in place for soccer to be a success. Nothing in life is guaranteed, and neither will the efficacy of a Major League Soccer franchise in San Antonio; but the city certainly has the makeup, the character, and the potential to be among the next great expansion stories.

The main hurdles I can see are working with San Antonio's historically dysfunctional city government in getting a soccer-specific playground built. You think this whole El Franco Lee/Sylvia Garcia thing is bad here? Believe me, you have no idea. I only WISH there were someone to bribe. If only it was that easy. With San Antonio, it's all about getting the fix in, and you have to fix every single little group or the whole thing will fall apart in the most surreal way possible.

Also, there's a reason San Antonio is pretty much terra incognita when it comes to major sports (the NBA excepted). The place is wonderfully and quirkily schizo. It is the seventh-largest city in America, second only to Houston in Texas (third to Houstopolis and the metroplex) and yet, if you were to ask people who live there, they'd tell you about how it's just the nicest little town. This is sweet and all, except that this conception of the place extends to problem-solving, urban planning, etc. etc., which makes the place even more dysfunctional. It is a major city that thinks of itself as a minor town. San Antonians will not support the big money beasts of MLB and the NFL, though they seem to make an exception for the NBA. Winning championships will do that for you, I guess. MLS? I think San Antonians will support it as long as it stays community-oriented. That will be the key to any franchise there. Come across as big time and SA will turn its back on you, or worse, just stay away.

But I do not come here to bury San Antonio with damnations. It is frustrating, agonizingly so, but I fell in love with it when I went to college there (Trinity University, Class of'87. Go Tigers!), met my wife there and consider it my second home. It's a wonderful place to be. I would love for the place to have an MLS franchise, because its size, Hispanic identity and geographic location make it ideal. So, you go SA. Get that team.

And then my Orange will come there a couple of times a year and we'll kick your teeth in. Nothing personal, of course.

1 comment:

Michael Macias said...


Thanks for the post. I referenced it on our blog:

We have started a San Antonio Soccer Supporters Group, Crocketteers, and our trying to spark interest in the city of a pro franchise.

Leave a comment or two if you drop by.

Michael Macias