Mark Grainda joins the Massive Report staff from Indiana where he follows the Indy Eleven. He will be contributing on a wide variety of topics in the future. Please help us welcome him to the team!
Major League Soccer is growing and so is soccer in general in America. In two weeks the MLS will be starting its 20th season (pending CBA negotiations). Living in Indianapolis, I have the benefit of being able to watch the Indy Eleven. The Eleven are in the process of trying to get a stadium built costing around $82 million. Without Columbus Crew SC, none of this would have happened. In 1999, Crew Stadium was built to become the first soccer specific stadium in the United States. After that, many other teams, all over the country followed suit.
The proposed stadium for Indy Eleven
Photo Courtesy of IndyStar.com
Seeing Indy Eleven’s push for a stadium, it got me thinking about how soccer has grown in the United States. As of this year, 15 out of the 20 teams have their own soccer specific stadium. Next season Orlando City SC will have its own stadium and D.C. United hopes to begin playing in their own stadium by 2017. That will make 17 out of 20.
There have been rumors that the Krafts want to build a soccer specific stadium for the New England Revolution. If there was a stadium built in New England that would make 18 across the league. The last two teams are the Seattle Sounders and the Vancouver Whitecaps who have good stadium situations and if they were to build a new stadium it wouldn’t make any sense. Seattle’s attendance numbers equal those of teams in the Premier League and Vancouver can always open up more seats to accommodate fans.
So what does this have to do with Columbus? The Crew SC organization was the first to build a soccer specific stadium in the United States and in doing so, they started a movement. Built in 1999, Crew Stadium was constructed specifically for soccer.
Just a few years later, Crew SC won the 2002 US Open cup and in 2008 they were MLS Cup Champions. Having their own stadium doesn’t automatically mean you will win trophies, but it certainly helps. The Colorado Rapids moved into Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2007 and won the MLS Cup just three years later. Sporting Kansas City moved into Sporting Park in 2010 and oddly enough, won the MLS Cup three years later.
Crew Stadium was the first of its generation. In 2003 the LA Galaxy followed and by 2005, stadiums designed for soccer were just popping out of the ground.
Going back to the Indy Eleven stadium, one of the biggest selling points is that it can be used for several events, concerts, football, lacrosse and most importantly, soccer. The Eleven didn’t come up with this idea by themselves; most stadiums do the same thing. Stadiums such Crew Stadium, Toyota Park in Chicago, Toyota Stadium in Texas, and Avaya Stadium in San Jose are all open on one end or even have a platform designed specifically for concerts.
Having flexibility to schedule their own events and not having to worry about an NFL team being first priority makes things significantly easier for an MLS team. As of 2016 - with Orlando finishing its stadium - 16 out of 20 teams in the MLS will have soccer specific stadiums.When it comes to training, practices and games, being in your own stadium brings flexibility.
One major problem in places like Seattle and Portland is turf. Teams having a soccer specific stadium can plant grass and don’t have to worry about the NFL governing what is put down for the field.
With a work stoppage becoming almost inevitable, rescheduling games, and canceling games is bound to happen. Getting to be flexible with your events and soccer coming first in these stadiums makes life easier on MLS teams.
In the beginning, the league wanted places to play. 20 years later, a soccer specific stadium, or a plan to build one is a major criteria to enter the league. Time has changed the league and Crew SC were at the forefront of that, bringing benefits to all.