Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hey, Who's Next?

24 Million people in the United States of America watched the World Cup game between Portugal and "I Believe That...We Will Win."

Major League Soccer/SUM and ESPN/Univision Deportes/Fox recently signed a broadcast deal which will triple the television money flowing into MLS coffers.

Set time slots, Friday evening on Univision Deportes, Sunday 5pm/7pm on ESPN and Fox, are guaranteed by the new television contract.

Youth and adult participation numbers for soccer remain at all time highs in the United States.

While Major League Soccer viewership still lags behind the immense numbers posted by the NFL, NBA and major college sports, the trend is up.

NYCFC, an offshoot of Manchester City of English Premier League fame, joins the Major League Soccer party next year, along with Orlando City.

So, who's next to join the rapidly growing league and sport. Atlanta is guaranteed a spot in a few years time. Miami would be a great addition with David Beckham leading the charge, but the chance of a Miami team is dimming, politics and special interest groups lining up to block any possibility of a vibrant downtown/waterfront stadium.

The list of other cities capable of hosting a Major League Soccer team is long. Each city has it's own unique characteristics. Nashville is all music, all the time. San Antonio has the river walk. Sacramento is filled with hard working Californians trying to hold off the seismic splitting of the state into six separate states. Minnesota, well, they have snow, cold and some truly passionate fans of the beautiful game.

And then there's Las Vegas. The Las Vegas portrayed as Sin City, a mecca of gambling, booze and prostitution. Funny thing though, Las Vegas is so much more than the popular perception.

Hundreds of thousands of people, people from all over the world, call Las Vegas home. People who work at Starbucks. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, construction workers, politicians, and dreamers call Las Vegas home.

Step into downtown Las Vegas. Look around. Really look around. There is change happening in downtown. The changes are a breath of fresh air in a city which has always reinvented itself around the gambling industry.

Not this time. The gambling expansion has been left to the strip and the mega-casino/hotel corporations.

This time, downtown Las Vegas is pushing an Arts District on one side and a Zappos led revitalization on another side...and the efforts at non-gambling revitalization seem to be working. First Friday is a busy time in the Arts District. A short walk east on Fremont Street and you can see a gigantic praying mantis guarding the entrance to the unique Container Park development.

Amazingly, there is so much empty space around the outskirts of downtown its hard to imagine what's next. One thing is for sure, a Major League Soccer team in Symphony Park, just west of the Fremont Street Experience, would be a wonderful addition to the "New" downtown Las Vegas.

A Las Vegas franchise could grow with the surrounding efforts. No doubt, in five or ten years time, the residents of Las Vegas will have an exciting area in which to escape the ever present gaming industry. Standing on a corner in the Arts District, only a few hundred yards from the Findlay Sports and Entertainment Group's proposed site for a 25,000 seat stadium, I can see a place where Las Vegas comes together. Las Vegas feels right for Major League Soccer.

I've been in Columbus, Ohio, all my life and believe that the Crew can be a small part of making Columbus great. A Brewery District/Downtown stadium for the Black and Gold would make sense. It would "feel" right.

Las Vegas and soccer downtown has that "feel." I would choose Las Vegas if I were Major League Soccer.

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