Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Idea Long Overdue

Through no fault of its own, the MLS may have stumbled on a good idea thanks to the New York Mets. The New York Times reports that the Mets along with several other investors have started talks to obtain the rights to run a MLS team starting in 2010. It is assumed that the unnamed team would play in Queens near the Mets' new stadium.

This is a great idea which means the MLS will probably find a way to mess it up. The MLS has a long history of unfortunate priorities and decisions which have hindered the growth of the league. For too long, the MLS has focused on attracting families as its fan base. This is a self-destructive policy as the league cannot count on most of these fans to stay with the league as the children go and the parents no longer have a reason to attend matches. It's another symptom of the sterilization of American sports. Fair-weather fans are not the long term answer for the fledgling league.

The MLS also has a habit of building or using stadiums in areas often inaccessible to public transportation. Way to cut off thousands of potential fans. I have ruled out going to matches because it's a pain in the ass to travel that far to watch mediocre soccer. They only trick me when they have a doubleheader with an international or European/Latin American club match.

A team in Queens solves these problems. The Times article touches on two reasons. A large immigrant population and easy access by road and public transport.

Several years ago I, along with several other soccer fans, sat down with Alexi Lalas who was NY/NJ (genius idea) Metrostars (now Red Bulls) GM at the time to discuss what the team could do to expand its fan base and make itself more of a presence in the New York area. After the idea of moving the team to Queens was mooted, we pointed out that the Metrostars and other teams needed to market to immigrants as well as people who are already fans of the game. A team in Queens makes it easier to attract these people as well as people who have some interest but aren't willing to travel long distances to see a match. You can't make new fans unless you get them to the matches. I would like to support American soccer but they better not make me work for it.

The Mets ownership would hopefully bring experience in running a sports franchise which is something many teams lack. Of course, baseball acumen doesn't automatically translate to success in soccer but one would hope they would be able to find people who would be able to work some magic across the meadow.

The name of the team is also important. It should say New York or Queens. I would suggest the 7 Train Translators, Pupusas, Steamin' Dumplings, Korma Knockas or Christpunchers.

Ballhype: hype it up!