Thursday, November 02, 2006

Phoenix, AZ...Soccer Hotbed?

So one of the largest cities in the United States Southwest, Phoenix, Arizona, hosted a friendly between two of Mexico's largest and most storied clubs; Club America and Chivas. They played to a 1-1 draw at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the new home of the Arizona Cardinals. This friendly match drew 40,496 fans to watch. A friendly match, between two Mexican clubs, drew 40,496 people in the USA.

I know why this type of match drew so many people, Arizona has a large Mexican immigrant population, so this type of a match would be, and proved to be a good draw. Hell, the Interliga is staged partially in Phoenix due to its good weather and its local ethic population. So why not try and use the city of 9 million people for MLS?

Currently, the closest MLS clubs are the two from LA. Meaning that Phoenix is rather isolated from the MLS environment and is a potentially untapped source of soccer. MLS should look at trying to get some type of representation in the Phoenix area soon. They could start with having Chivas USA play a home game at Sun Devil Stadium in the beginning part of the season, or have them play a friendly match with a Mexican club at University of Phoenix Stadium, just as Chivas and Club America did.

The biggest move would be to have a club based out of Phoenix. I know, during the summer, it is hot, and the "dry" heat is getting humid now. Believe me, I lived in Phoenix for 7 years, the summer's are brutally hot and oppressive. Considering that the MLS season is a summer based season, playing home matches in Phoenix could potentially kill someone. Training outside would definitely be out of the question. The only option would be to play in a dome. Well, there is one there, actually, there are two there, University of Phoenix Stadium and Chase Field. I am not of those who likes sharing a baseball field with a soccer team, and god knows I have bitched and whined during matches at RFK when the ball bounces as it changes over from the outfield to the infield, but in order to get a club into the Phoenix market, sharing Chase Field might not be that bad an idea for 3 years or so.

Building a smaller, 24,000 seat Soccer Specific Domed Stadium might not be that bad an idea. There is plenty of space in the Valley to choose from. MLS's I/O could choose to build the stadium out near the Hockey Arena and University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The infrastructure is already out there with the parking lots and hotels. Another option would be to use the huge vacant lot in Scottsdale, where Los Arcos mall used to be. The mall was leveled because it was assumed that was where the Phoenix Coyote's would build their Hockey Arena, that was until the Scottsdale city council voted against the stadium plan. The Coyote's moved out to Glendale, and the City Council was voted out of office next election. This all happened around 2000, I am not sure as the college years sorta run together. However, I was just out in Phoenix and the Los Arcos lot is still empty and a stadium could probably go up in about 16 months.

One big question is how to get a club there. I would like to see something similar to the Chivas USA deal. Maybe not exactly like that, having a Mexican club create a USA based version of itself, but having a local, Hispanic investor, that would be the best type of situation and Phoenix is the best location for this type of thing to happen in MLS. I am sure that Arturo Moreno, owner of the MLB club, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Arizona native, could either be a part investor or could point MLS in the right direction. MLS is always getting bashed by writers for having problems reaching out to the Hispanic communities, why not investigate having a Hispanic owner/investor? In any case, I would highly recommend that the club have a strong identification with the Mexican league. Doing so would provide a point of reference for the local Hispanic community.

I know that something like this would most likely take place, if ever, around 2010 or later. I honestly think that a city like Phoenix is the perfect place to put a club, and soon. It has a damn near built in fan base already in place, molding the club to attract that fan base would be the only thing needed to truly get the fans in the seats.


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