MLS: All Is Not Peachy in the Southeast…

This is the 1st guest post by TSG community member Jacob Chambliss. Well done.

As promising as the latest MLS expansion teams seem, their inception does little to dull my own apathy regarding the league’s newest franchises (Disclaimer: I do love Jay DeMerit).

Pick me!

This lack of excitement has nothing to do with my stance on soccer—I love the sport. Nor does it have anything to do with my Eurosoccer snobbery—I firmly believe that MLS is a growing league in more ways than one, and its future looks very promising. My problem with these expansions has to do with where my couch is located…in Atlanta, Georgia. There are no MLS teams anywhere near the Southeastern United States (or the South, as I refer to the geographical region in this post), and this saddens my heart.

Put simply, the reasons for MLS backing of teams in my region can’t overcome the cons. Any talk of expanding the league into the South seems ludicrous when measured against the inevitable revival of the NY Cosmos, for example. This certainly seems to be the stance of the MLS execs; in recent online forums with both Miami and Atlanta soccer fans, the resounding message is that expansion priority will go to establish another New York team.

Dan Courtemanche...

This comes despite the fact that MLS has at least one eye on setting up shop in the South. According to Dan Courtemanche, Executive Vice President of Communication for the MLS, expanding to the Southern region has long been one of Don Garber’s goals. When asked why this hasn’t happened yet, Courtemanche’s response was quite revealing.

While some would argue that soccer in the South can’t flourish because of the dominance of college football and Title IX—which basically restricts SEC schools from having men’s soccer teams—this does not at all seem to factor into Garber’s thinking.

Such a position ignores the soccer culture that exists in the South (did anyone see how packed the Georgia Dome was for the Mexico friendly last week?), and loses sight of the real issue behind potential MLS expansion teams. The problem isn’t so much college football here as it is with college football. That is, aspiring expansion teams into this region face an uphill battle procuring the proper facilities for their athletes.

Not about Title IX...

Garber and Courtemanche were both pretty adamant about this—new expansion owners either need to have plans to build a soccer-specific venue for their team, or otherwise have ownership over whatever venue they intend to share with other teams. Here’s where the problem comes in.

Take the two recent cities under scrutiny by MLS—Miami and Atlanta. Both have subpar attendance for their professional teams already. They also have problems unique to their areas—Miami is so far away from any other MLS team the potential of this being the first “Southern” MLS team is a stretch (not to mention the heat), and Atlanta is a city with no natural boundaries…one can live forty minutes away from the city proper and still claim to live in “Atlanta,” which certainly contributes to the poor attendance of the professional teams already in place there.

This presents a double-edged sword to anyone attempting to plant soccer roots in the region. On the one hand is the difficulty of securing professional facilities for aspiring owners, and the second is MLS’s desire to plant new teams in regions already saturated with MLS franchises. When pressed for why Courtemanche was so positive about soccer in the South while priority goes to New York, there was no response—either somebody knows something I don’t, or the preferred method for Garber right now is to focus on developing MLS rivalries.

This also would seem to preclude the South from consideration for expansion—would D.C. United really view Atlanta as a threat? Would anybody care about Miami’s team more than they would the sun? I’d say it’s doubtful, and for that reason I sense a bit of a double-standard in their preference to expansions—should MLS look to “expansion” in the geographical sense of the term, or should it focus on amplifying the regions in which it already has a presence in order to bolster its (weakening) tv rating? As an Atlanta resident, I’d pick the former, but I’m also not Don Garber.

Again, I want to reiterate here that college football shouldn’t have an impact on the decision to build an MLS club here. As Matt has pointed out to me, you currently have Generation Adidas, the SuperDraft, and the DP to establish your team base—and with the renewed focus on development academies and the reserve league, player prospects for the MLS in general are looking ever brighter. From a supporter’s perspective, the issue isn’t whether there are soccer fans here, but how to draw those soccer fans collectively around a team centered in whatever city the MLS decides to move in on.

This does not mean that all is lost for my Southern soccer supporters, however. Courtemanche pointed to two models for expansion that have worked well for lobbying teams. The first is the Philadelphia Union, who owe much of their existence to their excellent supporters’ group The Sons of Ben. While the owner assumes the business risk associated with founding a new club, it was the Sons of Ben who lobbied for funds to build the stadium, and they took an active involvement with the ownership during the club’s development—a clear-cut sign to Garber that this was a team that would draw fans.

What Seattle offers...

The second example would be Seattle; a team backed with strong ownership that drew up a solid business model for Garber to look at, as well as ownership in Qwest field—which swayed Garber’s decision in their direction despite the fact that it was a turf field. In Atlanta’s situation, the latter parallel doesn’t look great—currently, I’m only aware of the Blank family (headed by Arthur Blank) who have shown any interest in owning an Atlanta club. Even here, the lack of any concrete stadium plans really hurts the team, as the Blanks have no stake in any professional stadium in Atlanta, and would probably require a professional team to relocate before attempting to move on a venue in the region. Barring a huge revival in organized supporters’ interest in bringing the MLS here, then, the future of the MLS in this region looks bleak for now, I’d say, but not utterly without hope.

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67 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dikranovich on 2011/02/17 at 5:48 AM

    jack, back in the day, the washington redskins used to be known as the team of the south. so the redskins had fans all the way from dc, down to florida. carolinas and georgia both, long before the panthers and falcons, threw their support behind the redskins, plus it helped that george preston marshall was pretty much a biggot and the people of the south could relate. even bobby mitchell sang dixie at the team luncheon and that is saying something.

    i guess the point is that if you are from atlanta, you can still root for the best team in the history of mls, and that is not a bad thing, plus the team wears black. how freaking cool is that?

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    • Posted by Matthew on 2011/02/17 at 6:29 AM

      I could be wrong, but I always thought the redskins were the team of the south was they were the closest team (and a very good one at that) and therefore were on TV in the south a lot. Being able to view the team each week encouraged fandom.

      Contrast to DC united. The south doesn’t get regional soccer coverage. Just national MLS games. So really, a southern fan could support the Galaxy much easier than DC united. Since the galaxy are on TV much more often. Its not like fans in the Atlanta are going to drive to DC to catch a game very often.

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      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/17 at 6:33 AM

        Exactly. Same situation with the Braves–everybody watches them because they’re on tv here all the time (thanks Ted Turner!). My dad who lives in Birmigham is one of the biggest braves fans I know.

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  2. Posted by dikranovich on 2011/02/17 at 6:15 AM

    if any city in “the south” is going to have a team it really should be new orleans. i mean could you imagine if new orlens had a team with say frank ribery on it, that is a match made in heaven. and there would be no better city to party in. can you imagine the free beer movement in a city where you can walk down the street with an open container?

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  3. Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/17 at 6:30 AM

    Well this might trump everything I’ve written–Dave Beckham looking to invest in new MLS sites: http://ow.ly/3YbRb

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  4. Posted by Sam on 2011/02/17 at 6:32 AM

    Carolina Railhawks were better than the Whitecaps last season, they also have a decent attendance and a soccer friendly community in Raleigh/Durham, not to mention a diverse pool to pull from youth academy-wise. The town also seems to support their teams, even minor league ones; as well as the sports you figure would never be as successful, like hockey.

    I’ve thought for a long time that there’s so many athletes in the south east that it just doesn’t make sense for the long term development of the sport to not have a team down there somewhere. Raleigh would be perfect, as I think if MLS does expand south it would be better to do a slow march as opposed to a hail mary straight to Atlanta (bizarre historical context I know.)

    Alternatively, I could see a good case for New Orleans, for all the reasons that Raleigh would work, plus it’s an awesome town with lax open container restrictions.

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  5. Posted by David on 2011/02/17 at 6:47 AM

    As an original season ticket holding, M-club attending, ugly jersey wearing Tampa Bay Mutiny fan, I could not be happier to hear talk that we may have a more local team to support in the future.

    Since we’re bringing back NASL teams, the recent reemergence of the Tampa Bay Rowdies seems like the perfect fit for the next MLS expansion.

    Plus, Tampa is just an hour or so from the USMNT facilities in Bradenton.

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  6. Posted by Crow on 2011/02/17 at 7:27 AM

    As a Son of Ben I know what it is like not to have a team, so I hope any southern soccer fan gets a team of their own. With that being said, I hope if the MLS ever sets up an expansion team again in the South it works out better. The league doesn’t need another FC Dallas (with apologies to their diehard fans who attend their home and away games), and the league doesn’t need a repeat of Miami Fusion or Tampa Bay Mutiny. The stereotype of poor attendance for pro teams in the South (especially Florida) is there because it is true. Support for teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins is deplorable. Even the Atlanta Braves, with all their exciting young talent, are not supported well. If people don’t want to sit out in the sun during the summer for a Marlins game, why would they for a Miami FC game? If any southern city gets a chance, I think Atlanta, New Orleans, or Nashville should get a shot.

    There are other cities such as St. Louis which are getting overlooked which are soccer hotbeds, but I still think that the expansion to Vancouver and Portland is well deserved. I like to think that the Philly Union has one of the best home atmospheres but I know we can’t compete with Seattle Sounders FC.

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    • Posted by Matt in Tampa on 2011/02/17 at 8:29 AM

      Crow: Before i start, let me be clear, I am NOT advocating an MLS franchise in Tampa.

      Some good points Crow, but some of your percpetions about what went on in Tampa with Mutiny are simply wrong. And as a Tampa soccer fan, I must defend the area. In the The Mutiny’s last season (2001) of existance, attendence was not that bad. Mutiny’s avg attendance was about 10.5k. That was more than SJ and within 1,500 of Miami, KC and Dallas. (ps. SJ’s, KC, Dallas and NE’s attendance are STILL all in the 10.5—12 range). Frankly, the attendance for the Mutiny’s last year was unbelievable given how awful that team was…terrible. They were 4-21 and 2. That’s pathetic….and an avg of 10,500 people still showed up!? On top of that the Mutiny were at the time one of the only teams in the league to actually have a radio contract…on spanish and english stations.

      The reason the team folded was way more complex than “attendance”. It was a league owned team that could not find a buyer. They played in the only venue in Tampa that was suitable for pro soccer (Ray Jay) and stadium tenants, the Bucs (owned by ManU’s Glazers), had no interest in buying into the league or giving a good lease to the Mutiny. The stadium deal sucked and that was a signficant reason no one would buy the team. Yes, if the team were averaging 20k fans a game, a buyer would have been much easier to find. However, expecting that kind of number would be stupid…for any MLS team…at the time.

      Hammer on the Rays if you want for the lack of fans. I can’t and won’t defend that, but don’t say there weren’t and aren’t soccer fans in Tampa sufficient enough to support a team.

      The only way an MLS franchise will come to Tampa, Miami or other southern cities, in my humble opinion, is for the team to grow from a Div II team, build a small stadium (ie..its own stadium), develope hard core following and then maybe graduate to the MLS. That will take time. This is what Vancouver and Portland did in a sense…and it’s what Raleigh might be able to do. For Tampa maybe 5-20 years…but it’s how it will/should happen.

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      • Posted by Garrett on 2011/02/17 at 10:25 AM

        Completely agree with you analysis of Tampa. It seems the building blocks are there: D2 team with decent attendance despite a lack of marketing, pursuit of their own stadium, committed ownership group with local investment, a strong supporters group, lots of youth clubs in the area, sizable population (top 20 US DMA), and strong history of strong national team support. If they are successful with their pursuit of their own stadium, and we continue to follow “Don’s rules for expansion,” I could see Tampa being ripe for MLS expansion in 5-7 years.

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      • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/02/17 at 10:32 AM

        matt from tb, you have nice observations. i have only visited the tampa area on several occasions, but to me the geography of the area is not good for sporting events in general. there is really no downtown area, people are spread over a very big distance. it just makes it tough to establish a professional franchise and i feel for you. you do have some of the best weather on the planet though.

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        • Posted by Garrett on 2011/02/17 at 10:42 AM

          The area the ownership group is looking for building their own stadium is downtown Tampa. It’s the best central location in the market, has a number of major businesses in there, and is easily accessible for the 1.6 million people within 30 minute drive. The Tampa Bay Lightning play downtown as well, and they are well supported. Shows it’s a feasible location.

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        • Posted by John on 2011/02/17 at 10:50 AM

          Hey Garrett, what is the public transport situation like in Tampa. Been forever since I was there…. Did the superbowl a couple years ago spur any growth in that regard?

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        • Posted by Garrett on 2011/02/17 at 1:26 PM

          Aside from highway expansion and improvements on that front, nothing substantial. Gov Scott just refused 2.4B for high speed rail that would connect Tampa/Orlando/Miami/Jacksonville, and the referendum for light rail in Tampa failed this past year.

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      • Posted by Jason on 2011/02/17 at 2:45 PM

        I seem to recall from the contraction that no less than George Steinbrenner considered buying the Mutiny, but when he took one look at the stadium lease at Raymond James he walked away. Apparently it was that bad.

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    • Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/02/17 at 10:25 AM

      It’s weird to think of an MLS team in Florida, Georgia or even Louisiana when neither the Gators, Bulldogs or Fighting Tigers have mens soccer programs. On the other hand, both Duke and UNC have very good soccer programs. The MLS shouldn’t try to use new franchises to build interest in soccer, but to feed interest that’s already there.

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      • Posted by Garrett on 2011/02/17 at 10:29 AM

        Tampa has a good mens soccer program in USF. Not the best, but it’s supported and the team is usually ranked.

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    • Posted by Steve on 2011/02/17 at 11:10 AM

      “The league doesn’t need another FC Dallas (with apologies to their diehard fans who attend their home and away games)”
      Ok, I’ll be one that objects.
      First, your implication that attending home and away games is necessary for fandom is erroneous. Dallas’ shortest MLS road trip is 4 hours to Houston, and second place is 8 hours to KC. Sons of Ben are closer to NY and DC than we are to Houston, and you can get to Boston and even Columbus and Toronto in less than 8 1/2 hours. How much of a presence do you have for road games at those last 3?
      FCD’s season ticket sales are up 300% for this coming season. There’s a new regime in the front office and they’re getting results on and off the pitch.

      And they’ll fix up Seitz (who the Union damaged by playing him before he was ready). He’ll be in goal and beating Philadelphia two years from now.

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      • Posted by Crow on 2011/02/17 at 1:33 PM

        ???? I wasn’t saying you need to attend road games to be a true fan. Heck, I didn’t even go to one Philly Union game last year. However, I do have season tickets this year even though I’m a 3 1/2 hr drive from Philadelphia and will be traveling to each game alone since there are so few people in central rural PA who like soccer.

        I was trying to compliment FC Dallas fans. I met a few at the USA-Colombia game at PPL Park last year and am impressed at their efforts at Pizza Hut Park and elsewhere- they were very visible during the playoffs at Home Depot Center. I heard firsthand some of the problems that lead to the low attendance- the location of the stadium, management, etc. I am glad to hear that there is a new regime in the front office and season ticket sales are up. It was a travesty for such a talented team to play in front of such few fans last year. And it is a shame for the diehard supporters to have a bad reputation because the general public doesn’t support the team. It was just embarrassing to watch FC Dallas games- there were entire sections where it looked like literally no one was sitting there.

        I hope you have a good season. I was cheering for Dallas throughout the playoffs.

        I don’t know about Seitz, though. I have never been impressed by him- in the Olympics or during his time in Philly. I don’t understand how the Union “damaged” him by playing him “before he was ready.” The guy apprenticed Nick Rimando for a year and is 23 years old. Is Bill Hamid being “damaged” by playing at age 19? How about Fernando Muslera, the Uruguayan goalkeeper during the World Cup, he is starring at age 23.

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  7. Posted by Clay on 2011/02/17 at 7:45 AM

    As a biased Raleigh resident I would like to see the Railhawks “promoted.” If hockey can work well in RTP, MLS can. This is a huge hotbed for soccer especially when you consider the successful college programs, CASL system, and the growing latino population.

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  8. Posted by Jorge on 2011/02/17 at 7:50 AM

    A lot of these cities have minor league teams (Miami FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Atlanta Silverbacks). Let’s have relegation/promotion. The league shouldn’tbe larger than 20 teams. I know it’s not a really feasible possibility right now, but a guy can dream right?

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  9. Posted by Todd on 2011/02/17 at 7:50 AM

    since when is Houston not in the south?

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    • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/02/17 at 8:32 AM

      No offense to the Texans…I’m actually a big fan of the Dynamo. The issue of course is where you demarcate the Southeast. Similar to Matt’s point above on DCU, tv coverage is an issue, and good luck getting anyone from Mississippi to South Carolina to attend a Dynamo game.

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      • Posted by Nelson on 2011/02/17 at 5:48 PM

        I’ve been to a dynamo game and am from MS. Also Houston culturally is more or equally the south as Atlanta.

        To the NOLA comment, New Orleans would be a great city but are they ready to play in 95 degrees and total humidity? The saints draw a lot of fans from the coast and surrounding area. I could see our soccer fans going too.

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  10. Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/02/17 at 8:43 AM

    Although not exactly related to your whole “South” article, I’d like to see San Antonio have an MLS team by 2013. The owners of the Spurs (NBA not EPL) have already said they would be interested in investing in a team that plays in the Alamodome in downtown San Antonio. Could be the next Seattle Sounders, a big city with a big stadium downtown.

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    • Posted by MJ on 2011/02/17 at 12:21 PM

      I’d be interested in hearing more about this for one since it’s the first I’ve heard of it. Follow up TSG?

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      • The SA situation is a cluster-mess. Two ownership groups looking to place Div 2 teams in SA. One is a philanthropist tying his cause to his team and playing in NASL. He’s planning on building a SSS. City is balking at helping pay.

        Spurs have the rights to a USL team in SA if they want it. They began exploring it as the NASL group started rolling out their team. Nothing but a few press releases have really moved this idea forward. I heard from one of the Spurs VPs last week and he said all the right things “we want soccer in SA. We want MLS here soon. We’re moving slowly, but we want to do it right.” But that’s it for now.

        Right now the city of SA is being a stick in the mud helping fund the SSS and Alamo Bowl (not dome…that Houston’s old baseball stadium) is in need of a huge face lift.

        The main SG in SA, the Crocketteers is split on which team to put their eggs in a basket for. They near future is very much in the air and hardly ready for Sounders-like status.

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        • Posted by Kevin on 2011/02/17 at 8:44 PM

          I’d like to add that there is still an issue with trying to get the Alamodome (not Alamo bowl which is a bowl game that is held there.) for a soccer team because right now it belongs to a local schools district who has no intentions of selling. The Alamodome would make a quick, decent home for a team though. The Saints played there in 2005 after Katrina. It already beats Pizza Hut Park and Robertson Stadium. Should the spurs ownership group that also owns tottenham, supposedly, decide they want a team in SA, they will get a team in SA and the Crocketteers will follow. Right now, I get the feeling they don’t know what they want to do. Purchasing the Alamodome won’t be an issue because they will/would make an offer too good to pass up. It all just depends on how committed the ownership group is because right now it seems far fetched, but next week it could seem inevitable.

          One quick question for you thought. What does the Astrodome have to do with anything? You know the former stadium of the Houston ASTROS baseball team… sorry just had to throw in that bit about the name. The Alamodome is a stadium in SA that hosts the Alamo Bowl, while the Astrodome is the former stadium of the Houston Astros that no one can figure out what to do with.

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        • Kevin – Got mixed up with my stadiums… just a switcher-roo with the Alamo Bowl/Dome/AstroDome business.

          Despite that the point of my comments were that San Antonio has a heck of a lot to figure out before they make a case for an MLS team. Not that I don’t want to see one there, but there are loads of hurdles not least the stadium issues that we both brought up (mine still valid despite the name games) and the multiple teams and leagues.

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        • Posted by Kevin on 2011/02/17 at 9:19 PM

          I agree, there still would be a lot to get done if this were to happen and a lot of problems, but I guess my reason for that long post was to say the ownership group is powerful enough to make it happen if they are determined. Should the ownership group find determination it could happen pretty quickly and catch people off guard. My overall stance though is that it is unlikely. The ownership group doesn’t seem remotely determined and its reminiscent of clueless yet proven European players who say they wan’t to retire here.

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  11. Posted by John on 2011/02/17 at 8:53 AM

    The NHL has already shown the issues with putting a franchise in a place where there is no/temperamental support. Now I do tend to think that there is a significant population in the south that would gravitate towards professional soccer moreso than hockey, however…

    Last year the Nashville, Atlanta, and Carolina teams were all in the bottom 10 of attendance for league totals. Now those average numbers would potentially look good for the MLS over the course of their season, with the exception that Hockey teams play 41(or 40) home games, which allows their average to come up quite a bit.

    Also the urban sprawl of the south east (and really much of the south) prohibits quite a few places from having local fans identify (and easily get to games) with a team.

    I think that if the MLS is going to look somewhere for teams in the south east it needs to be in a small town, close infrastructure, easy public transit way.

    I mean, FFS the Dolphins can’t even sell out and they are an institution. They were still potentially in the playoffs until the middle of November.

    I remember the Heat not even being able to sell out Playoff games years ago. (obviously now that isn’t going to be a problem)

    I tend to think that the MLS wants their product to succeed. Which sounds better, a revitalized soccer brand that almost every person knows in the US from their heydays, in one of the major cities of the world. Or starting from scratch in the south east with almost zero infrastructure, not much fan support and potentially an attendance issue. Even Montreal has the support, the stadium being renovated (at a cost of 23 million to seat 20,000) and a very cool cosmopolitan city.

    Side Note: I do tend to think that we need to qualify this as the SOUTH EAST, rather than the SOUTH, which could include Houston and Dallas. If anything is going to work it is going to be a situation like the one in Houston rather than the one in Dallas.

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  12. Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2011/02/17 at 9:25 AM

    I think for many of the reasons you list Portland and Vancouver made total sense. Especially with Basketball (Portland) and Hockey (Vancouver) there are no competing sports during the summer for any MLS teams to worry about. They also were able to step to the plate with the forementioned soccer specific stadiums and strong supporter clubs who, like Sons of Ben, were willing to work with the owners to ensure success.

    As for a future expansion of teams in the south. There’s opportunity there, but it’s going to take the right place at the right time. Finding the right city will depend on many factors, but one that cannot be overlooked is competition from other sports franchises in the area during the summer.

    I could write my own piece on this but I’ll give you an abbreviated timeline. In the NASL during the 1979 season the top two teams in terms of attendance were the Cosmo’s at 46,490 fans per match, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies at 27,650 fans per match. This isn’t a coincidence seeing as how there was no Ray’s baseball team or Lightning hockey team to draw attendance from. Only a Buc’s team that was a fledgling upstart with no success to that point.

    So given that there’s (some) evidence that it’s easier when no other pro sports teams have to co-exist; places like Raleigh or New Orleans are going to be the most likely places that a new MLS team would be successful.

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  13. Posted by Bill Kirtland on 2011/02/17 at 9:34 AM

    Miami and Atlanta… this is like picking in between the flu or the cold. Atlanta I fear may never work. It’s not just that people like college football in the south, it’s that they are actually good at it. In a region that has had to defend their culture from the north since 1865, this remains an item they can hold up and point at the north and say “It’s okay, send your precious Ohio State to play us again, easiest game of the year.” Do a lot of youth play soccer in the south? Surprisingly yes, but then again we all do, we all played baseball, t-ball, we all played soccer. Now, we all watch football. I just think the south just has too much culture contentment to deal with a changing sports environment. Contentment, you can read about it as one of the basic cultural foundations of the celtic peoples which migrated from the northern Britain regions to the south centuries ago. I’m not knocking contentment, I am, but it might be one of the most stubborn emotions to alter. Here is where the hope lies. The south is depeely rooted with longstanding generations. The cities with MLS teams are transient locations. Those cities receive all mixes of cultures, who like the rest of the world, love soccer…excuse me…futbol. As the political environment continues to alter business, and as they continue to search for a safe haven to do profitable business, I believe the tax free southern business economy will be ready with open arms. This will bring good ideas, bad ideas, but inevitably new preferences and people into the region. Possibly, this could plant the soccer seed that blossoms into love of the sport. My prediction, 50 more years.

    As for Miami, I love this city, I live here, but this is a bigger culture crock pot than any of your mom’s roast beef dinners. To start, the MLS has been here before, and it failed. So what is Miami pitching now? Everyone knows hispanics dominate Miami, so why doesn’t soccer work? Like Jake mentioned, but not Euro-snobbery, Spanish-snobbery. The MLS needs to prove something to the new generations of hispanics in Miami. Otherwise it will be like going to the old Miami Fusion games, which was as bad as watching the newly formed Lingerie football league games, just with less boners. Now, Miami’s pitch. When the Miami Fusion attempted to work in Miami during the mid-90s, the MLS was something much different, much less advertised, much less broadcasted as compared to now (Thank you ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN news, ESPN3, ESPN deportes, ESPN U, did I miss any?). And Miami was much more cuban. Apples to Apples right Bill? Bzzz wrong! These hispanics are racist toward each other’s regional nations. If the Mexicans had their version of a Columbian Rosa Parks, they wouldn’t have moved her to the back of the bus, they would have made the bus stop at the next fiesta and hung Rosa up for a little pinata swinging. Sorry…Sorry! The Cubans now claim and embrace that they are Americans, they have been here since the 1950s and are much more American”ized”. They love football, beer, and bush…W…Bush. The Columbians/Venezuelians say they are Columbians and Venezuelans. Their sense of national pride when asked about it is followed by an “Huh?” But what do Columbians and Venezulans have in common, they really like South American style soccer. The MLS, is getting closer to that. So much like the hope I expressed for the south, is the reality here in Miami. New culture, new preferences.

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    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/17 at 10:01 AM

      Another reason why MLS should look to other cities first, perhaps. The social issue doesn’t just extend to ethnicity, however–attendance was poor across miami’s pro teams before they got Lebron. So racism isn’t quite the problem, I would say. The bigger problem is how to get Miami people to the stadium–a question that requires other considerations, including location, public transportation, ticket prices, the players on the team, etc. MLS franchises here must embrace the Latino population for sure, but this isn’t the only, or even the major reason MLS teams fail here.

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      • Posted by Bill Kirtland on 2011/02/17 at 10:08 AM

        Ehhh I am not using racism as a crutch just merely saying how it has influenced a culture. And everyone has always used the same issues you’ve noted as an excuse for lack of attendance, those all go out the window quite frankly here in Miami. Fans have gotten to the game when they want to. It’s a matter of being apart of the social scene and what’s hot, south beach culture. So the real mission is for the Miami to create a product that people want to me scene at.

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        • Posted by Bill Kirtland on 2011/02/17 at 10:11 AM

          sorry didn’t proofread that *So the real mission is for Miami to create a product that people want to be scene at.

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        • Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/17 at 10:14 AM

          That’s closer to the point, and it seems to be the strategy behind some of the most recent expansions–build an identity around the team that the fans can grab onto.

          Reply

        • I think one of the REAL issues with respect to ANY Florida city having an MLS franchise is probably related to physical infrastructure. Not one of Florida’s major cities/urban area’s has much to show for mass transportation….no light-rail to be found in Florida. (( A GREAT example of excellent infrastructure would be Portland, Oregon…..home of the Portland Timbers. In Portland, there is a fantastic light-rail system, street car system and a bus system…..they all work together. )) In Florida’s cities/metro area’s, the best available is a bus system….most visitors to Florida really need to have a car…..w/ a GPS!!

          That being said…….I think the Tampa Bay Rowdies MIGHT be ready to go the way of the MLS down the road—-in due time. A team-owned, pro-soccer stadium in Tampa would also be needed—as opposed to the current stadium being used in St. Petersburg.

          GO ROWDIES!! : D

          Reply

    • Posted by Chris on 2011/02/17 at 12:31 PM

      I won’t argue your points about Miami. You’re from there, so I’ll defer.

      But man, that Atlanta paragraph is just a bunch of hooey. Sorry. Cultural contentment? Celtic peoples? Nonsense.

      Come to Atlanta and check the demographics sometime. It has become a very diverse city and one that if marketed to (not pandered to) properly could easily support an MLS franchise.

      One of the things I believe holds Atlanta back with regard to pro sports in general is that the residents don’t feel Atlantan. To use your word, Atlanta is too transient IMO. Too many people identify with the sports teams of their previous homes and haven’t yet adopted their new city, maybe because they don’t feel the city has made an effort to adopt them (who knows?).

      This could be made into a positive with soccer however. MLS is young enough that entrenched identities with regard to MLS teams shouldn’t be difficult to overcome.

      Atlanta needs smart,open, and inclusive minded ownership. They need to be aware of the many communities that exist here and have representation within those communities as a means to bring them together under the flag of an Atlantan team. It could be a difficult task. But it can be done if the owners start the thing in the proper way and don’t wait years to figure that out. It’d be too late.

      As an Atlantan, I have my worries about a successful MLS franchise here. But the right owner with the proper mentality from the start can make it work.

      Reply

  14. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/02/17 at 10:00 AM

    I’d look for places with concentrations of young people ripe for the beautiful game and vibrant urban centers ala Portland/Seattle. I think massive sprawl or decentralized cities with saturated and flagging pro sports landscape are not the place to start. I think KC is a good starting point for rivalry based southern expansion. KC, ST louis, Nashville? While DC Raleigh would be a good rivalry, it would be an outlier to the Philly/dcu/nyrb rivalry.

    Reply

    • Posted by Berg on 2011/02/17 at 11:10 AM

      I’ve always been perplexed as to why St. Louis hasn’t received serious attention as a potential expansion city. The potential of KC v St Louis and Chicago v. St Louis match ups intrigue me.

      Reply

      • Posted by TheDude on 2011/02/17 at 2:00 PM

        They have. The problem for St Louis is the ownership group fell apart on closer examination (and played out with the NASL franchise owned by the same guy)

        Reply

      • St. Louis hasn’t gotten a serious look because the only guy who wanted to invest in soccer in the city was a joke and burned both a men’s and women’s franchise to the ground. Even before their early demise neither were well supported beyond the SGs. Gotta show that soccer can work at some level before getting MLS.

        Reply

  15. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/02/17 at 11:04 AM

    I just had a vision, and it involved a soccer game on the infield of a NASCAR oval.

    Larry McReynolds: “Bobby Labonte seems to have his number 47 Toyota dialed in today. ”
    John Harkes “He needs to step up and close Jeff Gordon down. Not as good as me when I was playing.”
    Darrell Waltrip: “Boogity boogity boogity!”
    JP Dellacamera: “Lets go down to Allen Hopkins on pit row, and see if this sweltering heat has caused him to loosen the ridiculously large knot on his necktie.”
    Allen Hopkins: “Becks, do you think the field conditions are affecting play?”
    Becks: “I was surprised to be honest when the number 88 chevrolet car invaded the midfield spinning circles and tearing up the pitch. But you have to credit the Birmingham Barrons, they showed heart considering the two stone in adverts weighing down their kit.”

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/02/17 at 1:58 PM

      I nominate this for the comment hall of fame- hilarious. I think the Dellacamera comment was the best! I can imagine him saying that! LOL.

      Reply

    • Posted by Steven on 2011/03/09 at 4:41 AM

      Rereading this article today and noticed this comment. FREAKIN HILARIOUS! lol

      Reply

  16. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/02/17 at 11:15 AM

    I live in Buffalo, NY so I am far from an expert on the south. My two cents:

    MLS needs not worry about expansion into the south east. It will happen when its ready. Sprawl, Culture, College Football, Government Funding… They are all small reasons that keep the MLS out of the area. If there was one BIG reason, it would be easy to beat with a good plan. But instead several small reasons can only be beat with time. As soccer builds nationally and the MLS becomes better covered, a desire for teams in the south will naturally develop. In the mean time MLS should focus on building the league’s strength.

    I think a steady growth to a league of 30ish teams makes sense in a country with our geographical foot print.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jake C. on 2011/02/17 at 11:35 AM

      Not a bad evaluation, though 30 teams is asking quite a bit. I think you’re right though…it may take time for MLS soccer to plant roots here.

      Reply

  17. Posted by John on 2011/02/17 at 11:35 AM

    If you were to simply base it on support already in place, the simple answer is….

    Rochester.

    http://www.gregs-mom.com/USLAttendance.htm

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/02/17 at 1:35 PM

      Yeah, the Rochester crowds are crazy. I remember that from the days the Hershey Wildcats were in the A-League.

      Reply

  18. Posted by John on 2011/02/17 at 11:50 AM

    Oh and Miami?…. 405 people? 405? Really? And it wasn’t like they were awful at home: Won – 5 Loss – 2 Draw – 8

    My word.

    Reply

  19. Posted by Nelson on 2011/02/17 at 1:09 PM

    Put a stadium in atl near Buford hwy, the mexicans nearby university students and soccer fans will show up

    Reply

  20. Posted by Gazza on 2011/02/17 at 2:42 PM

    ‘…college football and Title IX—which basically restricts SEC schools from having men’s soccer teams….’

    Can someone please explain this? I’ve heard of Title IX but living here in Canada I’m ignorant to its inner workings.

    Reply

    • Posted by hercules3076 on 2011/02/17 at 2:55 PM

      Title IX is an interesting case study, by law, universities must spend the same amount of money on women’s sports as they do men’s sports. Therefore, if you spend a lot on a single men’s sport (football), then you have to spend at least that much on other women’s sports. This has led universities to follow the letter, but not the spirit of the law by cutting men’s sports instead of adding women’s.

      Reply

      • Posted by El Gato on 2011/02/17 at 7:23 PM

        Just to clarify Football spending is exempted from Title IX. It does apply to the rest of the sports. The only other sports on campus that might make money are mens baseball and basketball. All the other sports, boys and girls, lose money.

        Reply

        • Posted by Gazza on 2011/02/17 at 9:18 PM

          Thanks for the info.

          El Gato – do you think men’s soccer at a SEC school like Florida or a Big 8 school like Texas would make money if they indeed had programs and took the sport seriously?

          Reply

      • Posted by zlionsfan on 2011/02/24 at 9:19 PM

        No, that’s not what it says. It isn’t about money specifically, but about participation, scholarships, and other benefits.

        In general, women and men must be provided equitable opportunities to participate … this does not mean “equal” as in one-to-one, but “equitable” as in “proportional to representation on campus”. (Universities can also comply by continuing to expand opportunities for women, if they were not present in the past, or by demonstrating that they cannot comply because there are not enough women interested in competing in varsity sports.)

        Football is not excluded from Title IX compliance. That means that if a school suits up 110 players for football, and enrollment is roughly 50/50, then they need to provide about 110 spots in women’s sports. If they provide 85 full scholarships for football (which in the SEC generally means kicking out a handful of guys to make room for this year’s star recruits), then they need to provide 85 full scholarships in women’s sports to match.

        Of course, if it’s not 50/50, then you just need to make the assistance match that ratio – NOT the spending. (Obviously if that were the case, no university fielding a I-A team would ever be in compliance.) So, using my alma mater, Purdue, as an example … for the most recent year for which there is data, men made up 58.5% of undergraduate enrollment. 61.2% of varsity athletes were men, and 59.9% of assistance went to men. (There is a certain margin of error; the NCAA’s site is not exactly clear on how much that is.) You can look up other schools at the Office of Postsecondary Education’s website if you like.

        Anyway, what this means is that to field a varsity men’s soccer team, a school needs to provide scholarships for and fill a women’s team proportionally. Revenue is an additional factor: although it’s not precisely a Title IX consideration, the money has to come from somewhere, and because few sports pay for themselves, the money typically comes from the cash cows, football and men’s basketball. (There are some schools who actually make money from other sports, but those are rare: for the most part, the other sports are paid for by the big two.)

        Thus, an SEC school may say that it “can’t” field a men’s soccer team, when what it means is that it chooses not to pay for two “non-revenue” teams. It’s obviously possible to do so – 31 of the “automatic qualifier” football schools also field a men’s soccer team – but it’s not necessarily an easy battle to win, not if it involves “taking” money from football. (It’s not like those 31 schools haven’t made similar decisions in other sports … the monster that is college football simply ate something besides men’s soccer in other conference.)

        Reply

  21. I live in Atlanta too, one of the northern suburbs anyway. Its this simple if the small suburb of Kennesaw, GA can support a WPS team then the greater city can certainly support a Mls team. As with any franchise managed the right way and it will be a success, managed poorly and it will be a flop.

    I’ll say this, the Falcons couldn’t even sell out a home playoff game in January but the Mexican national team put 50k+ in the GA Dome last week.

    There is a great site available where the old Doraville GM plant used to be right off of I-285 and the Marta rail line. Its close enough to the center of the city and still close enough to pull fans from the northern suburbs.

    What we don’t have is a committed ownership group with the political connections to get this moving. The Blanks supposedly were near a deal with MLS but called it off in 2008 when the economy collapsed.

    Organization is what is holding us back in Atlanta not soccer passion. If anyone reading this wants to get involved there are few facebook pages promoting an Atlanta franchise, please joing the group:

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=141096582574311

    http://www.facebook.com/?sk=2361831622#!/group.php?gid=13998395116

    Reply

  22. Posted by Neandrewthal on 2011/02/18 at 11:23 AM

    If you want MLS in Atlanta, go support the Atl Silverbacks. If you want it in the South, show up to Nashville for the US friendly in March. And if you put an MLS team as far South as Tampa, the Columbus Crew will still be a closer team to me here in Alabama, which is ridiculous.

    Reply

  23. Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/18 at 12:46 PM

    Of course, fan support isn’t the only, or even the main issue at stake here. That said, the MLS friendlies in Atlanta during March would be a good opportunity too.

    Reply

  24. Posted by NoMLSAtlanta on 2011/05/07 at 10:12 AM

    Atlanta Silverbacks for MLS? Oh heck no! Not very entertaining like Atlanta sports teams. Miami, Tampa, Nashville, New Orleans, and Charlotte are okay because there’s more crowds. But Atlanta, definitely not. The crowds here are nothing but obsessed with NFL football.

    Reply

  25. Posted by jacob miller on 2011/10/11 at 1:01 PM

    I think there should be an MLS team in Birmingham, Alabama. Believe it or not there is a lot of soccer fans in Birmingham that would come watch games and support a team. Plus everyone in the south could come watch and support them too since we are the center of the south. The only way any southeastern people can watch games is if we go to Missouri or somewhere else that’s out of the way for most people.

    Reply

  26. Posted by Hunter S on 2011/12/13 at 12:11 AM

    Charlotte, NC deserves a MLS team. Charlotte has a great soccer culture with huge youth participation rates. Charlotte is growing rapidly, and with growth comes change. Soccer is becoming more popular as a diverse group of people immigrate to the city. The final of the 2011 College Cup was a game between the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina – Charoltte. Two teams from the state of North Carolina playing for the National Championship says a lot about how important the game is to North Carolinians. Soccer games hosted in Bank of America Stadium have proven that tickets will sell. Bring the MLS to Charlotte!

    Reply

  27. OK, EVERYBODY…..let’s face it………………we ALL want MLS in our cities (well, at least most of us!) : ) –greetings from Tampa/Tampa Bay….home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies! (“Go Rowdies!”)

    Reply

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