Friday, March 6, 2015

Why I Prefer NASL Over MLS for the San Antonio Scorpions

For every story out there espousing the reasons for the San Antonio Scorpions to join MLS, I have to wince and gag a little bit.

The mainstream media, locally or nationally, doesn't get it and neither do most of the fans.  Generally speaking, the consensus is that Major League Soccer is the better deal for the San Antonio Scorpions. After all, its the biggest brand of pro soccer nationally, why wouldn't it be?

There are plenty of reasons why MLS is the wrong situation for the Scorpions and plenty more for why NASL is the right situation.

The Scorpions came into existence in 2012 after a battle won against the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, playing most of their home games at a local high school stadium.  But, a high-school field with American football lines on it would only last one season as home to the Scorpions.

The team made a big impact on the professional sports world in the U.S. by establishing non-profit status and declaring its profits to support Soccer For A Cause and Morgan's Wonderland, a theme park for disabled people.  The vision of Gordon Hartman, the owner of the Scorpions and father to Morgan, appealed to big sponsors Nike and Toyota.  Soon after, Toyota Field was ready for action on the Northeast side of San antonio.

I'm a season ticket holder since 2013, Toyota Field's inaugural season as home turf to the Scorpions, and I can testify to the comforts of the stadium and how many fans actually turn out from game to game.

At 8,000 persons seating and standing capacity, the stadium really is an ideal, intimate venue to view professional soccer.  The whole experience is convenient and lacks the headaches of larger crowds.

I can also testify to the incredible soccer talent I have witnessed.  Last season was an amazing experience to follow from beginning to end.  There was a stretch during the 2014 regular season when the Scorpions were dominating the NASL opponents.

The playoffs became a reality and the Scorpions took care of business in the semifinals by dispatching the defending champs, the New York Cosmos, in a tightly played match.  As luck would have it, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers upset Minnesota United and the Scorpions got to play and win the 2014 NASL Soccer Bowl at Toyota Field.

The players on the 2014 Scorpions squad were all technically skilled, agile and extremely fast.  Some of the players really stood out and left little doubt in my mind that they could contribute in a big way to any MLS team. Walter Restrepo from U.S./Columbia, Rafael Castillo from Columbia, Julius James from Trinidad and Tobago, Stephen DeRoux from Jamaica, Richard Menjivar from U.S,/El Salvador, Billy Forbes from Turks and Caicos and Josue Soto from the U.S. all showed a pressing style of fluid passing and getting many shots off on goal every match.

Restrepo has found greener money pastures with the Cosmos, but the others remain committed to San Antonio.

The Scorpions are the most successful non-profit professional sports team in the world, having contributed close to 2 million dollars to Soccer For A Cause in its last two seasons.

The stadium is a fun experience for sure, but part of the fun is moving seats to see the Scorpions always playing to the offensive side.  This is possible because the stadium on average is only a little over half full.

My wife and I aren't embarrassed to move seats because we don't want to miss a good view of the goals scored by the Scorpions. I must mention, though, that for the NASL Soccer Bowl last November, we bought the best seats we could.  That game was pretty close to being a sell-out.

It's a joke to say the Scorpions should play in MLS.  It wouldn't get the support necessary.  It doesn't matter that the stadium can be expanded or that some other millionaire will buy into the team.  It's a dumb idea that only serves to placate a very small minority of city leaders and an over eager supporters group.

Right now, the NASL is an ideal situation for the Scorpions.  The stadium is a great fit and there's opportunity to have more demand than supply for tickets-I see this as the key for any team in pro sports.

The Scorpions have reached all their goals in a short time.  The non-profit is established and doing well.  (Some might say that Morgan's Wonderland is one of the greatest innovations of the 21st century.)  Also, the team has a reputation as a winner and I expect it to continue this season.  I believe that they will emphasize the U.S. Open Cup as all the NASL teams should to prove themselves against MLS teams.

From where I'm sitting in the first half and in the second half of Scorpions home games, the team wouldn't want to change a thing.

Originally published February 2015

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