San Antonio Isn't Ready for MLS Expansion

With MLS Commissioner Don Garber in town, San Antonio's case for MLS expansion is certainly a contender, but behind other cities
by Chris Hockman   |   Friday, January 31, 2014

Defending The Fort - column on San Antonio Scorpions (SASFC) & the San Antonio soccer scene.

San Antonio loves soccer.

The San Antonio Soccer Association continues to see more and more teams and thus more and more players, but it’s not just the soccer Moms and their kids that are in the city. The Crocketteers have 1,500 registered members, a number that rivals a number of MLS clubs and that’s just one of the 3 supporters groups in the city.

The Scorpions crowds were the highest in NASL, excluding the New York Cosmos, who only played half the year in 2012. And while San Antonio did dip, they finished last. The Cosmos also experienced a dip, a big one, despite winning the league. If the fans are still turning out, all be it in minor league numbers, for a losing second division team, one can assume they would do so for a losing first division team.

So the fans are there. That’s certainly true. But what else makes San Antonio a viable option for Don Garber?

They have a stadium.

Toyota Field has been an impressive gem for NASL, and while it will need significant work to get up to MLS standards, that contingency has been put in place and can happen fairly quickly.

The other big plus to the stadium is that it was built without government help, so there will be no complaints about forcing churches to abandon land like in Orlando or finding the right space like in New York. The deal is done, the stadium is built and the team – maybe with a little expansion in seating – could start playing there tomorrow.

San Antonio also has a lot of local sponsors. This is another big deal for MLS, with some teams even still lacking front of shirt sponsors (Colorado, for example), having local sponsors is vital.

The Scorpions have plenty of local support from sponsors, what is especially impressive from the Scorpions has been the capture of Toyota, who are local based and a major multi-national. In addition capturing Corner Store, owned by Valero, is a significant coup for the club, a big company in San Antonio that is an ideal partnership.

Even San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has long stated his support of an MLS team in the city, even going on the record saying that he would “do everything in (his) power to bring MLS to San Antonio.”

This is good talk, but the challenge is what that really means. All of these factors look like a positive start for an MLS expansion club. But there's one big problem San Antonio faces: financing.

Financial commitment is a key area where San Antonio needs to improve. While Gordon Hartman, owner of the San Antonio Scorpions, really is much wealthier than this writer ever will be, the expense required to start a Major League Soccer club is huge and is certainly more than Hartman could bear on his own. And the club would need more money just to compete with the financial powerhouses like NYCFC and the future Miami team.

The investment could well come, but it’s clear that Hartman will need help to make that level of investment. And with so many other cities with this piece, the biggest piece, it’s tough to see San Antonio jumping in the league any time soon.

San Antonio are certainly in the conversation, but without investment they find themselves sitting behind some other contenders. Hartman tends to play his cards close to his chest though, so any announcement of MLS intentions will not come until he is sure it will happen.

Chris HOCKMAN

Nationality:
Australia
College:
Univ W. Sydney & Youthworks Coll.
Club Domestic:
Houston Dynamo, San Antonio Scorpions, Austin Aztex
Club Foreign:
Central Coast Mariners
Originally from Australia found football (or soccer as you Yanks call it) a great connection in a new country. Freelance writer since 2005 covering Australian and US Soccer. Based out of San Antonio but can regularly be seen in Houston, Austin and Dallas.
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