Nearly 2 months ago, San Antonio FC submitted their expansion bid (no..actually, it is San Antonio’s expansion bid) to the fine folks at Major League Soccer headquarters in New York. As part of the promo video, the overall soccer region was touted as an obvious strength of the bid. Perturbed, our friends up the road at @MLSinAustin headquarters made some noise by reminding everyone that Austin is not part of the San Antonio market. They’re right, actually. The dividing line, for those wondering, is just south of wherever the first taqueria with kale in their breakfast tacos falls along I-35.
Anyway, as Austin launched into reiterating their claims to relevance in the latest MLS Expansion talks, it occurred to us at MLSinSA, that it might be a good time to revisit some of our own claims to top-tier candidacy here in San Antonio.
So, sadly, this is not going to be about Austin. We like Austin. But Austin currently has the same relevance to MLS expansion as a guy with a “cool idea about a movie they should make” has to the Oscars. So, this is not about the dreamers up the road. This is about San Antonio FC, led by Spurs Sports & Entertainment, and the fact that we are living the dream in South Texas already. This is about a market that has been #MLSReady for years and could have an MLS-caliber stadium ready in months, not years. This is about us.
So let’s get to it. What makes us so special? Without mentioning any of the other candidate cities, let’s run down just a couple of items on the list of what San Antonio has going for it as an expansion city.
San Antonio IS NOT still planning to build their soccer-specific stadium. It is done. San Antonio FC plays in front of rabid fans in a stadium built with MLS expansion in mind. San Antonio isn’t renting a college football stadium. San Antonio isn’t waiting for funding to hopefully (one day, maybe) put together enough parcels of land to make a stadium dream a reality. San Antonio is living the dream. And as the turnstiles keep spinning at Toyota Field, the asset of a ready-made stadium becomes all the more clear.
San Antonio IS NOT still assembling an ownership group capable of being a major force in a major league. In Spurs Sports & Entertainment, San Antonio is fronted by THE premier sports ownership group in the country. This is not hyperbole. And it isn’t homerism. SS&E are the envy of other markets and the model for so many around the country. San Antonio is not waiting on a few more millionaires to pony up cash or backroom wrangling over control to be ironed out. San Antonio isn’t assembling a team of executives or looking for additional investors. SS&E is a top-shelf ownership group with the backing of the city and county at levels other groups dream about. The only way SS&E would have more sway in town is if Peter Holt was mayor. Wait – can someone check and see if he’s interested?
San Antonio IS NOT talking about setting up an academy system when the time is right. San Antonio FC has a fully functioning academy system and is growing the next stars of the American pitch right now. There is no talk of developing the game in San Antonio. There is, rather, instruction and development and generational investment happening every day. San Antonio is creating a pipeline of talent for tomorrow for a team that was #MLSReady yesterday.
San Antonio isn’t perfect. It isn’t as big a media market as Tampa/St Petersburg. It doesn’t have as many Fortune 500 companies as Cincinnati. South Texas can’t boast of the crowds of Sacramento or the beaches of San Diego. Over the coming weeks, we’ll take those issues head-on to see how San Antonio might overcome (and already be overcoming) their perceived weaknesses as we confidently march towards MLS in South Texas.
For now, what can you do? Stay engaged. Buy tickets to San Antonio FC matches. Take a friend and show them. Tweet Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) often to remind him how great our fair San Antonio really is. In short, make it so that the good folks in MLS HQ never get through a day without being confronted with the greatness and readiness of San Antonio as an MLS market.