Success in the Alamo City
Soccer in San Antonio has been nothing short of a success since the Scorpions were formed in 2010 & started playing in the NASL in 2012. The team plays in a beautiful soccer-specific stadium, Toyota Field, has a league championship in its trophy case, and has solid attendance numbers for a Division 2 soccer team. Since 2012, the city of San Antonio has hosted multiple soccer matches, including a 2015 not-so-friendly friendly between the USMNT and Mexico attended by 65,000 fans. In addition, there was a 2014 international soccer friendly between Mexico & South Korea which brought 54,313 fans to the Alamodome and the USWNT took on Australia in front of 19,109 people in 2013. The city has shown its support for soccer, both for local and for international games.
Since the first home game was played in at Heroes Stadium on April 15, 2012, fans and community leaders alike have been pressing to bring top tier soccer to San Antonio. The city has only two top division teams, both in the sport of basketball - the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA & the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA. The city is ready for another top level team to support and the Scorpions present that opportunity.
Recently though, the future of the Scorpions as we know them has been speculated because of the possibility that Toyota Field, and potentially the Scorpions themselves, could/will be sold.
The owner of the Scorpions, Gordon Hartman, has stated that he wants to bring top level soccer to San Antonio, which in the US is Major League Soccer. He, by himself, cannot afford to expand Toyota Field to MLS standards, but more importantly, the hefty $100 million expansion fee associated with joining MLS. A sale of the team and/or stadium to an investor or investors with the funds to do so would bring the city closer to making #MLSinSA a reality.
Currently, the county of Bexar is looking at the possibility of purchasing Toyota Field from Hartman while the Spurs Sports & Entertainment group (SS&E) is interested in fielding their own soccer team in San Antonio. It's not clear whether or not the Spurs will eventually buy the Scorpions or simply create their own team. SS&E owns the rights to a USL franchise, which they've had since around 2010 and are trying to get Hartman to lower his price tag on the team or else the Spurs will form their USL team to compete against the NASL Scorpions. Some in the San Antonio journalist community believe that they are just "playing hardball" to get a better deal, but most would agree though that a two team solution in San Antonio is NOT what is best for the community or for the growth of soccer in the US.
Sources have said recently that if the Spurs do in fact purchase the Scorpions they would move them down to the USL, which is currently the Division 3 league in North America. They would have the team play in the USL for a few years with the intention of moving to MLS soon after. The USL will provide SS&E with seemingly lower travel and operating costs merely because of the size of the league and its place in the USSF hierarchy. The USL has stated though that it intends to seek Division 2 status, although the Scorpions are currently in Division 2.
Moving to MLS is not a guaranteed thing, even with the Spurs as an owner. MLS has said it will expand to 24 teams by 2020, but is expected to come out after MLS Cup 2015 with plans to expand past 24. The Scorpions seem to be an ideal team to include in their expansion list, assuming they get the financial backing necessary, but nothing is guaranteed.
I enjoy the NASL and I like their business model. I wish expansion in the league would pick up more steam, but as long as good owners are found, I'll have to trust in the league. The USL is not a bad league though. Unfortunately, it has become the MLS reserve league. More and more MLS teams are creating USL clubs, because of a league affiliation, that are defacto reserve squads and not independent clubs. If the Scorpions are moved to the USL, Alamo Soccer City will still support them.
There are so many unknowns surrounding soccer in San Antonio looking towards the future:
The only thing I know for sure is that I will be covering, and supporting, our Scorpions [or whatever USL incarnation they may become]. I urge San Antonio supporters to do the same and continue to support the Scorpions as they finish out their 2015 season.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Soccer On -ASC
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