It was announced on Wednesday that NASL‘s Minnesota United F.C. was awarded the coveted 2018 MLS expansion spot. While fans in the north celebrated the news, the feeling down south was contrasted to say the least. Virtually since it’s inception, San Antonio Scorpions F.C. has courted the American prem in an attempt to complete the triangle of top tier Texas teams. The campaign has included the circulation of a successful petition, the recruitment of celebrity support, the endorsement of then Mayor Julian Castro, and even a visit from commissioner Don Garber himself. This most recent round of expansions brought the Alamo City closer than ever, with most convinced that this was it. Alas, it wasn’t. But why not? And how then? Let’s discuss…
Proponents in San Antonio are probably left asking, “Why not us?”, and the similarities between Minnesota and San Antonio only support the argument: both clubs top league attendance charts; each have won the Soccer Bowl once; and MLS continued to consider the two in the running for 2018. One feasible factor could be the age of each club. A year, more or less, isn’t much of a disparity for clubs elsewhere, but it can mean all the advantage for some as young as these. Another reason could be Miguel Ibarra. While Scorpions are no doubt contributing to Texas’ reputation as a soccer power house, with the likes of Billy Forbes and Richie Menjivar continually receiving their respective national nods, the Minneapolis midfielder’s national call-up was perhaps all the confirmation that MLS needed that head coach Manny Lagos was indeed doing something right. Despite winning the battle by clinching the Soccer Bowl, San Antonio have ultimately lost the war to secure a seat at the major league table.
Luckily for San Anto, there’s still a chance in the form of one last slot, which would fulfill MLS’s desired 24-teams-by-2020 capacity. While hype of potential investors from Japan has all but dissipated, the momentum of the initial push has been reinforced by reports that Scorpions owner, Gordon Hartman, has hired investment bankers to vet possible buyers of the club to include the acquisition Toyota Field. This is important for two reasons: an upgrade to MLS would certainly increase revenue to levels at odds with the charity-driven motive to which Hartman’s ownership group adhere; and continuing the non-profit business plan would financially hinder and therefore stunt the overall growth of the club. With a for-profit motive in place, the club would be free to save and spend as it pleases, save for MLS-specific financial policies. There’s another option, one that has been suspiciously silent: the Spurs. Spurs Sports & Entertainment initially flirted with founding a USL team, but Hartman’s group won out, leapfrogging them to the second level league with Scorpions. Now that the race has heated up once again, it wouldn’t surprise this writer if SS&E were to exact the same move on Scorpions. An inner bidding war, such as that seen in Minnesota, may flare up between Scorpions and Spurs as the contest enters advanced stages. Think of an eBay buyer waiting until the last second to bid on an item. It’s smart, but is it a reliable projection? It never wise to call the winner at half time, so we’ll just have to wait for that final whistle.
Edited 21 May, 2015.