24 January 2011

Cosmos, Strikers, or Scorpions?

The 2011 MLS season has yet "kick" off and American soccer writers are clamoring all over who will be the 20th team to join the MLS, possibly as soon as 2012? Portland and Vancouver joined the top-flight American league in 2011 and Montreal will be the 19th team to join the MLS, beginning play in 2012.

Essentially, there's three main choices available at the moment for a 20th team: the reincarnated New York Cosmos, the Miami Strikers, or the San Antonio Scorpions.

New York Cosmos

Most people would right away ask "Does New York City really need a second team?" They've got the Jets and Giants, the Knicks and Nets, Yankees and Mets, Islanders and Rangers (and basically the Devils), why not the Red Bulls and Cosmos?

Well, for one thing, the MLS has yet to tap every potential geographical market, while the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL has. The Southeast still does not have a MLS team. Yep! That means that states like North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida don't have a "local" team to support in the MLS. Sure, teams like the Carolina Railhawks, Charleston Battery, and FC Miami from the NASL and USL Pro fill in that void to a certain extent, but in reality those teams are supported by 1,000-4,000 fans (if they're lucky) on any given home match. I've personally been to the Battery's stadium, and while the fanbase and the stadium are great, they aren't exactly what MLS fans are looking for when it comes to satisfying that need.

Another reason I'm inclined to think the Cosmos aren't going be joining the MLS in 2012 is the little fact that they don't exist in any real form. I'll let you read that again.....thats right, they don't exist! There is no team. Unlike the other two options, the Cosmos, as a soccer team, do not exist in any fashion on any level other than a boardroom. The Cosmos made news recently in signing big name Eric Cantona as "Director of Soccer" for the NY Cosmos...what does that mean? Who knows. Right now, the Cosmos are merely a label or a brand to sell. Unfortunately, the Don has thrown his vote with this non-team team so who knows.

San Antonio Scorpions

Back on January 10th, club owner Gordon Hartman unveiled the new name of the NASL team residing in his town: San Antonio Scorpions FC. Nifty name, but so what? Well, Hartman announced the venue for the Scorpions to be the STAR Complex, a 5,400 seat stadium that can be expanded to 18,000 seats when they enter the MLS. So not just a facelift, but it is now the goal of Hartman and the rest of the Scorpion crew to enter the MLS, potentially as soon as 2012 as the MLS' 20th team.

I don't really have any huge cons like I did with the Cosmos, but the pros aren't exactly huge either. The MLS wouldn't really be striking any new ground in Texas, where two MLS teams already exist. Right now, the club claims to be "for passion, not for profit" and all profit from the club would be donated to Morgan's Wonderland, the world's first "ultra accesible family fun park", designed for children and adults with special needs. This is a super cool idea, but I wonder how the MLS looks at that. As far as I know, the MLS is still looking for a profit (can you invision the amount of sarcasm dripping from that statement?) and the idea of a club giving all of their profit to an amazing organization isn't going to make the league any money, and if the club moves up the MLS the league is going to demand money. We'll see how that plays out.

Miami FC / Strikers FC / Ft. Lauderdale Strikers ...

Yep. After unveiling the new name for the once Miami Ultras as the Strikers, the club has yet to actually announce an official name. With three months until the NASL season starts, needless to say the fans in South Florida are a little peeved with the lack of communication and publicity for the Miami professional soccer team, saying they "were the last to know about soccer games" and they had to resort to blogs and Twitter to stay informed. They brought these complaints to Don Garber, MLS President, and Aaron Davidson, NASL CEO, when the two appeared in Miami to chat with South Florida soccer fans.

The Don, however, didn't exactly have uplifting words for the 60 or so Miami soccer fans in attendance. Basically, Garber said that Miami has to prove it could support a MLS by increasing attendance at its local matches (I still don't know what to call it...). While that's great and all, I think the NASL and the FC Miami management is going to have to step up its game in promoting itself to the many, many futbol fans in Miami, not necessarily to South Beach.

Readers with a reaching knowledge of MLS history might realise that the MLS has already had a team from Miami. They even won the Supporter's Shield in 2001, their final season with the MLS (axed for faltering funds around the league, along with their Florida mates, the Tampa Bay Mutiny). Some might see this as a failed attempt, but I think the MLS and the soccer supporters in Miami know now what it takes to keep a team afloat. They've had the past 10 years to look back and see what didn't work with the Miami Fusion and the Mutiny and see what is working for the 18 teams now in the league.

A lot of people are comparing Miami to Toronto and Philly from a couple years ago, and that's a valid comparison. Basically you have group of supporters that want a MLS team and are willing to do what it takes to get it (except Philadelphia's Sons of Ben didn't even have a team to root for).

I'll post some (less possible) options as they come in.

Who do you think will be the 20th team to join the MLS? Vote in our current poll.

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