What a weekend. Repeal Day, championship weekend in college football, and the MLS Cup Final yesterday! It sure is a good thing that player for the winning team scored that goal to win, what a match! The winning coach deserves a raise for his tactical adjustments at half time, too. And what a save by that goalkeeper, right?!?
As you can see I actually wrote this on Sunday morning before the game was played, but there’s no way any of the preceding sentences were incorrect, which is why I’m so smart I write this stuff for free. Anyway, getting back down to the third tier of the U.S. Soccer “pyramid,” only a little news to report.
- First, FC Cincinnati is announcing their first player signings today at a fake English-concept bar in a glorified outdoor shopping mall in a gentrified area of the city, which is peak FC Cincinnati, IMO. It’s times like these, though, that make me wish the league had an open-records policy for player contracts so we could know how stupid FCC is being with their money. All that face powder sure was a good investment!
- There are some random player transactions floating around, but maybe the oddest is that New York Red Bulls release three players that spent a lot of time with the Baby Bulls last season, Leo Stoltz, Maurius Obekop, and Manolo Sanchez. That doesn’t mean RBNY2 can’t sign them to USL deals, but I don’t really see that happening. These guys were good, so HINT HINT, CJO’C.
- NYCFC called up Wilmington Hammerheads keeper Andre Rawls to the House that Replaced the House that Ruth Built. Rawls, a NYCFC draft pick, was on loan in Wilmington last season, so City leadership must be looking for a keeper who’s used to facing a lot of shots on the net. Looks like they found one!
Finally, the most tremulous news of the week was that MLS owners support expansion to 28 teams. It’s not an official edict, and there’s no timeline, but given that it’s MLS and they kind of make up or waive rules and requirements on a whim, that’s not surprising. This, of course, led to Twitterverse punditry on “WHO’S IT GONNA BE?”
Well, Sacramento’s probably gonna be one, as they’re inching ever closer to an MLS-quality stadium. San Antonio might be in the mix, as could Indianapolis or even (gulp) St. Louis and Cincinnati. The only people hollering about Louisville that I noticed were our own fans. So this begs the question: is Louisville City in the mix?
My first response is that I don’t care all that much. Sure, I want top level sports for the city, but I’m perfectly fine with what the club’s managed to do in the USL so far, and I’ll be more than glad to continue supporting the club on its present level. If we just put last season on repeat forever, I’d love it, and so would you.
But many folks REALLY want MLS, because they think it’ll make Louisville look like a “legitimate” sports town, or they’re MLS fans already, or some other reason. Regardless, I think our chances are slim. MLS, at least nowadays, seems to want to expand into large television markets, the same as the other top four sports leagues in this country. Big TV market = big TV money, at least in theory.*
*The irony is that MLS doesn’t really do all that well in TV ratings, so you’d think it would make better sense to just go where soccer’s going to be successful. But MLS.
Louisville is not a big TV market, which is a big reason why we keep getting passed over for NBA teams, too. The Falls City falls right at #50 in the media market rankings, behind such metropolises as Birmingham, AL, Austin, TX, Charlotte, NC, Harrisburg, PA, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. That’s bad. There isn’t an MLS team in existence that doesn’t have another big league team in town, and the smallest TV markets in the league are Kansas City, Columbus, and Salt Lake City which come in at 31, 32, and 33, respectively. MLS is trying to make money, for better or worse, and the more eyeballs they can beam the product into, the better it is for their bottom line. Louisville, as a TV market, probably doesn’t move that needle much.
That said, LCFC ownership hasn’t been demure about their aspirations to reach Division I. If that’s their goal, they’re gonna need a killer stadium FAST. Like, before any of these other USL/NASL teams vying for a spot get one built. Louisville City pretty much has to get that done before the rest, and fill it up consistently over the course of a season, to get on Garber & Co.’s radar. Get a stadium, and you’re very, very difficult to ignore. Stadium means your club has actual assets that show up on a balance sheet, rather than fictional ones like “goodwill” and “a player that we can sell in a volatile market.” Stadium means a variety of dedicated revenue streams under the club’s control, and not someone else’s.
Because promotion and relegation doesn’t exist in the U.S. or Canada, that’s how you get yourself promoted. Prove that you’re able and willing to spend a lot of money on soccer, and you’ll be allowed to climb that ladder. It worked for Orlando and NYCFC. Louisville City doesn’t have Brazilian multibillionaire money or Qatari oil money. It’s gonna be a steep climb.