Excuse me for borrowing liberally from my friend TJ at MLS Daily, but I just thought this topic was too good to pass up.
TJ makes the case for San Antonio as an MLS expansion candidate, noting the large Hispanic community, the sizable metropolitan population, and the close-call bid of 2005.
All excellent points.
I make my own case for San Antonio after the jump.
I really have nothing of significance to add to the case, as I'm not familiar enough with San Antonio. It does appear, however, that there are a couple of issues involved in the possibility of MLS in south Texas, generally revolving around a dramatic increase in the number of public-use soccer fields for the youth of the area (see the quotes from the various mayoral candidates in TJ's post). If the MLS and any potential ownership group made sure to include a program for getting those fields built, it appears as though the ideal would appeal to at least more than a few of the candidates.
As I said, though, I don't really have much to add to that discussion. My real reason for this post, and the real reason I'm borrowing the topic from TJ, is that San Antonio fits several of the criteria I believe will make for good soccer markets in the United States.
I've written this before, but it bears repeating: while in a perfect world, MLS would be in every major market in the country (i.e. every NFL market), there is often simply not enough room in the crowded sports environment for soccer in those cities.
The easiest answer to this problem for the league is to take the path of least resistance. This means placing teams in either the largest non-NFL markets, or in cities that have a strong history of supporting soccer, regardless of the presence of big time American sports franchises.
Prime examples of each can be seen in the last two American cities awarded franchises: Seattle, a city with an NFL team but minus one franchise due to the relocation of the Sonics, has supported the sport as far back as the NASL days. Portland, a city with a strong soccer history that cannot be underestimated, has only an NBA basketball team on the top tier of sports to compete with the incoming MLS team.
San Antonio, while lacking in the soccer-history (at least as it pertains to supporting a professional franchise; participation is another issue entirely), also has no NFL team, and like Portland, is home to only an NBA franchise.
As long as the ownership group is solid, and the team and city can come to an agreement on getting a SSS built as soon as possible, San Antonio has all the making of a fantastic MLS market.
The league needs to pick it spots, not punch above its weight, and be sure that the markets it enters have the proper characteristics and infrastructure in place for soccer to be a success. Nothing in life is guaranteed, and neither will the efficacy of a Major League Soccer franchise in San Antonio; but the city certainly has the makeup, the character, and the potential to be among the next great expansion stories.
Match Fit USA hereby bestows upon the City of San Antonio the rating of five "MFUSAs" (that's pronounced "ma-fu-sa") as a potential MLS market.
But they should probably get a USL team first, just to test the waters.
Share your thoughts, or propose a city you think has all the makings of a good MLS market.