A Futbol Future?
Posted February 24, 2013
I’m sure I’m not taking a wild shot in the dark when I say that soccer probably isn’t high on everyone’s sports totem pole. In fact, I bet there are several of you who have bust out a Daniel Tosh-esque rant on the game from time to time.
If that’s somewhat similar to your opinion, I hope I don’t lose you for the remainder of this blog. I enjoy the game. I grew up playing the game. I even lasted past the reversible jerseys, soccer moms in minivans hauling half the team around, and the whose turn is it to bring the orange slices and Gatorade phase. Don’t get me wrong, I will never protest that I was any good, at any stage of development, I don’t even recall if I cracked the starting lineup at Senior Night of my high school finale! I own an Arsenal jersey, albeit I cannot wear it regularly anymore, thanks a lot, Robin Van Persie.
So, color me excited when I see a Major League Soccer team visit the Triangle. If you missed it, the Vancouver Whitecaps visited WakeMed Soccer Park on Sunday for preseason play with the Carolina Railhawks. It’s nothing new, of course the Railhawks stunned the MLS champion L.A. Galaxy in the past. However, it’s hard to put aside the feeling that this wasn’t a glimpse at the future too. Professional soccer at the highest level’s been talked about before, but every year the rumblings seem to get a bit louder.
“The end goal is to get better every year and grow professional soccer in the Triangle,” said Carolina Railhawks President Curt Johnson. “To bring a championship back to the Triangle, certainly.”
It’s not an overnight process, and no one is going to pretend that it will be. On the whole, the MLS has failed to succeed in the Southeast. Both Florida franchises in Miami and Tampa Bay were 86’d in 2001 and there’s been currently no presence along the East Coast further south than Philadelphia. Typically, the league looks for venues that can house 20,000-25,000. The facilities at WakeMed are on their way though. The $7 million dollar upgrades now offer 10,000 seats, a party deck, four additional suites, and improved concessions and amenities. Johnson says ultimately the fans and the owners will decide what level the ‘Hawks will play at.
“More importantly, the growth in partnerships, in terms of sponsorships, season tickets, and overall attendance growth,” Johnson said. “We doubled our attendance.”
There’s no denying that the interest is here. And growing.
“The passion for the sport at all levels is here,” Johnson said. “You see the success stories around the country, in certain marketplaces selling out regularly. Seattle averaged more than 40,000 a game during the regular season over the last couple of years. There’s no reason a similar level of success can’t happen here.”
Meaning the Whitecaps and Galaxy could become regular visitors in regular season affairs, as opposed to just special events.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” said Johnson.
Could Major League Soccer lie underneath? I, personally, hope so.
Currently listening to: The Black Keys, “Little Black Submarines”