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Thoughts on new Columbus stadium.

(Sunday, May 16, 1999) -- Here is a sampling of SoccerTime readers thoughts in response to Jerry Langdon’s column "Columbus stadium is reason to celebrate, but MLS has work to do."

I am responding to your article concerning the Columbus stadium and its effect on MLS. Just the other day I was watching an MLS game from the first season and noticed a much more fervent crowd. The major difference between now and then is the recognizable players. Back when the league started there was Donadoni, Valderrama, Campos and others that could draw a crowd on their own. Now we have better play, but a lack of recognizable names on each team that have the potential to draw crowds.

I know that the league does not want to get into trouble by over-spending on foreign talent, but wouldn't it be worth it to spend a little more and grab a couple of bigger-named talent. I am from the Kansas City area and our foreign contingent is Digital, Okafor, Johnston, and Sabo. Not exactly your box office draws. I would rather see one or two players with an international reputation with the other spots going to young American talent. I realize that picking talent is a tough job, but I go to see our younger players like Vermillion and Brown more than Sabo and Digi.

What do you think of having a split cap for foreign and domestic players so that a team could choose between four mid-level players or one or two star talents for their foreign acquisitions? This might also provide a hedge for keeping some of the younger American players here. What do you think?

Matt Shepard

Just read your article in SoccerTimes; here's irony for you. A couple of weeks ago, it was announced in the San Jose Mercury News that San Jose State is going to start a new college football "Bowl" game (might be called the Silicon Valley Bowl). This would mean increasing the size of Spartan to 50,000 (because college post-season bowl games must have at least that much). It sounded like a done deal in the paper. I haven't heard anything recently, but it seems here would be a backward step for MLS and Clash!

Ned Zuparko

Like most of the fans around the country, I am extremely excited about the new stadium in Columbus. Living in Los Angeles, I follow the Galaxy and hopefully we will have the same fortune that Columbus had in getting a soccer-specific stadium.

I know of two locations in the L.A. area which can be used for that purpose. First there is the area around the Forum which is a few short months will be vacated by the Lakers and the Kings as they move to the new Staples Center in downtown L.A. To me, when the Forum is eventually torn down, it will be a perfect location for a stadium because it’s in close vicinity to three major freeways and also because of the major streets in the area.

However, if the Forum area cannot be used, the next alternative will be the area where the sports arena stands next to the Coliseum. Two factors might sway the Galaxy officials to build in that area. First, the fact that Phil Anschutz who owns the team is also involved in the effort to bring football to the Coliseum. Also, there is the fact that many of the residents who live in that area are Latino and that is the Galaxy’s major fan base.

However, there are traffic problems associated with that area and also parking is limited. Hopefully, though, they can come to a decision soon and the team can play in their own stadium instead of that cavern, the Rose Bowl.

Brian G. Washington

Your entire article is right on the money. Even soccer fans who check out an MLS game on TV, see 90 percent of the seats empty and get discouraged. All soccer cities should build a small stadium just like Columbus' . . . some maybe even smaller.

How about 10,000 to 15,000 seats where you only have sideline seating? That is ... no seats behind goal. When you get to playoffs, bleachers can be rented to fill those in, if there is demand.

Example: Miami Dolphins in the early 70's played in the Orange Bowl which had an open end, and seated 75,000. When the Dolphins were in their prime, they added bleachers to the open end, increasing capacity to 80,000. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago should probably build stadiums in the 30,000 range.

So if no stadium will be above 30,000 what will this do to the MLS Final? One option is to secure a large non-MLS soccer stadium for the final and rotate among the 12 teams each year. For example, Miami -- Pro Player Stadium is an excellent soccer stadium. A second option is to keep the final at big market locations like Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., L.A.

You're right about Miami Fusion's location. I'm from there, and I've thought this already. I supported the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium and there attendance was much better than the Fusion's. Why? Because people from Fort Lauderdale thought of it as their team. The Miami club seems to be geared to attract the Latin population of Miami. The problem is, they live in Miami, not Fort Lauderdale. It's an hour's drive or more. So, Fort Lauderdale folks don't care to see a team geared for the Latin community and a team called Miami; and most Latin fans don't want to make the drive on a regular basis.

Since the stadium is already built, I'm sure there would be no plans to build one closer to Miami, so the only attempt at a solution is to change the name to the Florida Fusion. I personally don't like when they do this, Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers . . . but in this case it even sounds better.

What I still haven't seen is any significant promotion for MLS. I don't see any prime time ad campaigns; very little in the paper; etc. No one is going to care until it seems like big-time stuff. Reality is that it will never have a TV market like the other major sports, but it can succeed on a smaller scale. It must succeed. We must always have a professional soccer league.

Additionally, we ought to start having at least the Final on ABC in Prime Time. Can anyone get this message through? And ESPN (or ABC) should have one MLS Soccer Game of the Week each weekend at the same time, to establish a habit -- preferably in or close to prime time. ESPN2 can carry second and third weekend games.

As far as the rest goes, yes, soccer scoring must increase. If you come to watch your home team play, it's so unrewarding to be shutout. At least you would like to see your team accomplish something by scoring a goal or two. In all other sports, say football, you at least know that even if your team stinks, it will at least score or succeed on making at least a few good plays. All soccer has are goals to excite fans. No goals, and you've done nothing that amounted to anything the whole game.

The league should grow to no more than 16, 18 or 20 teams. Eighteen would be better, but 20 is a rounder number. Four groups of four or four groups of five. Top team in each group, plus four (or eight) wild-card teams make playoffs.

Teams should be moved to the right locations. Looks like Kansas City will never amount to much. Colorado and Tampa might be savable, with right stadia and advertising. Tampa once had fairly prosperous North American Soccer League team. Dallas is doubtful. Portland and Seattle could work. I seem to remember that the Minnesota team did well for a while in the NASL. Two teams in New York each playing in smaller size stadiums, one in Brooklyn the other in New Jersey? That's just an idea, don't take that one seriously.

Ideas: Move Dallas to Austin (fast growing city with no pro sports) or San Antonio. Try Houston and establish intra-state rivalry. Austin is only 2.5-3-hour drive from Houston. Dallas and San Antonio are 3.5 -4 hours. I make no promises about Houston though.

Establish teams in Portland and Seattle. Consider moving Tampa to Orlando. Just a thought.

Move K.C. to St. Louis (give it a try; it was once considered a soccer city).

Establish one more team somewhere, probably another Northeast location like Rochester, Philadelphia, Carolina...or has anyone tried Salt Lake City or Albuquerque? That should give us 16.

I think another minor factor are the ridiculous names. Fire, Burn, Wizards, Clash, Galaxy, Crew, Mutiny, MetroStars -- either too simple or too strange. Fusion and D.C. United are good. Rapids, Revolution are OK.

I also think it's weird for one guy to own three teams, don't you? He has a one of four chance for winning the title each year.

How can these ideas get through to ESPN and the MLS?

Michael Scheib

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