For sure, Lew Wolff and John Fisher are smart men. Not just
because they run the very successful Oakland Athletics organization
on a budget, but also because they are bringing the ‘beautiful
game’ back to an untapped market.
Staff and Wire Reports
San Jose – For sure, Lew Wolff and John Fisher are smart men. Not just because they run the very successful Oakland Athletics organization on a budget, but also because they are bringing the ‘beautiful game’ back to an untapped market.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced on Wednesday that soccer will return to the Bay Area. Starting in 2008, the San Jose Earthquakes will once again be a part of MLS.
The question many have asked is, ‘How can we improve the popularity of soccer in America?’ A question debated by sports analysts after the U.S. was ousted in a disappointing 2006 World Cup, the immediate solution seems to be English star David Beckham. Beckham signed a reported $250 million, five-year contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy in January. But can soccer succeed in The Bay?
“Youth soccer is bigger in the Bay Area than anywhere in the country,” said Don Gagliardi, president of the grassroots organization Soccer Silicon Valley (SSV).
Gagliardi said SSV dedicated 16 months to bringing MLS back to the Bay Area after the San Jose franchise relocated to Houston. That goal can now only be viewed as a resounding success.
“We were fans of the previous team and we were very upset when they left,” Gagliardi said. “We weren’t going to give up and accept that.”
The new team will have a larger role in the community than just providing entertainment to soccer enthusiasts, though. Gagliardi said having a Northern California franchise is extremely valuable due to some new league rules. MLS franchises can now keep players in their geographic areas if they develop them, and History is one of numerous cities in the region with a large community that plays the sport.
“Certainly, we will be reaching out to the local community,” Gagliardi said.
Gagliardi said he doesn’t know all of the details involving youth programs across the area, but acknowledged there is a hope to develop homegrown talent. Just one indication of the Earthquakes outreach to the Hispanic community will be their third jersey that reads ‘Los Terremotos,’ spanish for ‘The Earthquakes.’
Jose Hernandez, Gilroy High School girls’ soccer coach, agreed with Gagliardi that a new MLS franchise will be a good thing for the entire are, in particular for Hollister because of the soccer-loving atmosphere.
“Anytime you can bring in role models and people who love what they do, it’s always a plus,” Hernandez said.
According to Associated Press reports, the owners are working in conjunction with San Jose to build a facility that can hold 15,000-20,000. Making an exception to league policy that requires any expansion franchise to have a suitable home stadium, Garber bent the rules since he is confident the deal will get done.
It would be in both parties best interest according to Hernandez, because he says it will help stabilize the movement and continue the growth of soccer.
“As I look at sports, I see a lot more of that (specific sport stadiums),” Hernandez said. “(It’s) only right to keep with the trend.”