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Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in MLS, NASL, Orlando City, Recent, San Antonio Scorpions, USL PRO | 5 comments

San Antonio or Orlando? Who is more ready for MLS?

San Antonio or Orlando? Who is more ready for MLS?

 

There’s been a lot of talk about Orlando and a possible MLS future for the club but another team is opening several eyes as the MLS’ 20th team.  The NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions, just in their second season has drawn excellent crowds and have already opened a soccer specific stadium.  I’ll say one thing, I’m biased on the subject as a San Antonio native who passionately follows the team. I decided to get in contact with an Orlando City fan and have a discussion from each side on which club is more MLS ready. Here’s what she has to say about Orlando.  The criteria we will be looking into are stadium, supporters groups, support from the city, player quality, owners financial backing, media coverage, and TV deals. Let’s dive into it.

 

Stadium
San Antonio Scorpions
Toyota Field is a privately funded stadium that opened on April 13, 2013. The stadium was completely paid for by private investors meaning that it didn’t come at tax payers expense.  It currently has a capacity of  8,000 for soccer matches and 14,000 for concerts and festivals.  The stadium is expandable to 18,000 as demand increases. It is located by Heroes Stadium and in the STAR Soccer Complex. Intimacy is perhaps the defining feature of Toyota Field, where the farthest seat is only 60 feet from the sideline. The stadium is very similar to Sporting Park, the home of Sporting Kansas City where the stadium provides a very European style feel.

Orlando City SC
On April 19th, 2013, Mayor Buddy Dyer confirmed that the City of Orlando purchased 21 parcels of land downtown near Church Street, just West of the Amway Center. All parties involved believe this is an ideal location to build a soccer specific stadium by the year 2015 to house the Orlando City Lions. 

 


Supporters Groups

San Antonio Scorpions
Similar to the Philadelphia Union’s “Sons of Ben”, there was a supporters group that was a driving force for pro soccer before San Antonio received a team.  The Crocketteers were founded in March 2009. They boast over 1100 members, which is the largest soccer supporters group in the entire state of Texas.

Another large supporters group for San Antonio is the Bexar County Casuals.  The BCC were founded in 2011 and give 100% support to the San Antonio Scorpions.  Outside of San Antonio, the Casuals currently have chapters in Austin, San Marcos, and Corpus Christi. In San Antonio’s first game this season, several Casuals took a trip across the country to support the Scorpions in their first game in Minnesota, earning them the honor of being “NASL Fans of the Week.”
There are two other supporter’s groups that aren’t as large but bring passion to the stands.  Those two are the Alamo City Ultras and Dragoons 78.

Orlando City SC
One of the many puzzle pieces in the success of Orlando City moving into the MLS are the supporters. Orlando City has some fantastic support from The Ruckus, Iron Lion Firm, Space Coast Alliance, and the 407 boys. Come wind, rain and heat the supporters groups are always there loud and proud of their Lions. The Ruckus and Iron Lion Firm have anywhere between 500-1000 supporters, while Space Coast Alliance and the 407 boys have about 200-500. Together all supporters groups fill the horse shoe end of the Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl. One thing that is positive among supporters groups in Orlando is that they are all able to come together and work as a team to support their team. By that fact alone, Orlando City Supporters are the best in the USL Pro, the best in Florida and look forward to supporting their Lions into the MLS.

 

Support From The City
San Antonio Scorpions
The city has welcome San Antonio in with open arms.  Countless sponsors have come forward to support this Soccer For A Cause.  The biggest being Toyota and HEB.  Toyota not only signed jersey and stadium sponsorship but they also became the presenting sponsor for Morgan’s Wonderland. Also, several celebrities have shown their support for the San Antonio Scorpions.  Eva Longoria helped reveal the Scorpions inaugural kit last season.  San Antonio Spurs legend, David Robinson and Miss USA 2012, Nana Meriwether were in attendance for the opening game at Toyota Field.

Orlando City SC
Between the backing of multiple investors, the support from Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, County Mayor Theresa Jacobs and Governor Rick Scott, many Orlando City fans believe that the jump to becoming an MLS franchise is just a matter of time. Hopes were certainly high about this time last year when MLS Commissioner Don Garber visited Orlando to discuss expansion possibilities. Even then, Garber spoke in terms of when, because he noticed the potential in Orlando City and the Southeast market. He has seen that Orlando City has already been successful in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic held every year at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.

 

Player Quality
San Antonio Scorpions
San Antonio, just starting their 2nd season, already have won the NASL Regular Season Championship (the NASL’s version of the Supporter’s Shield).  The Scorpions, however, fell short as they lost to Minnesota in the semifinals. Although the opening season ended on a low note, individual players won high honors. Pablo Campos won the Golden Boot award as he racked up 21 goals in 28 appearances and the Golden Ball, making him the NASL MVP. In that same season Goalkeeper, Darryl Sattler won the NASL Golden Glove Award with 0.79 GAA in 24 games and 13 shutouts in League Play. In the 2012 season, the San Antonio Scorpions had 3 played in the Best XI. Pablo Campos, Walter Ramirez, and Ryan Cochrane were the three that received the high honor.
Last season, San Antonio got to see MLS All Time Leading Goal Scorer, Jeff Cunningham grace the field in a Scorpions kit as he scored 1 goal in his 8 games with San Antonio.  Another notable player is Mexican International Javier Saavedra who, after playing last season, now coaches the reserve squad for San Antonio.  San Antonio also has it’s players teaching training camps throughout the year to help develop the young talent throughout the San Antonio area.

Orlando City SC
Orlando City has also created a quickly expanding youth academy to help foster growing talent in Central Florida. Players receive continuing soccer education and are able to participate in camps directed by some of their very own Orlando City players. The developmental pyramid used by Orlando City allows for the focus of the motto “one club, one vision” to ensure the same philosophies of play used on the professional side are executed throughout the youth system. Through the creation of the youth academy, Orlando City can nurture new talent and build for the future. In the short-term, coaches Adrian Heath and Ian Fuller are doing a phenomenal job of recruiting new talent for the team. Plus the partnership with Sporting KC has allowed four players to be loaned to Orlando City for the 2013 USL Pro season. Granted those players can be called back to Sporting KC at any time, but the benefits are currently being seen in the games played thus far. Orlando City can also boast winning back to back regular season titles and the USL Championship in 2011. That was a great year as Orlando City had Miguel Gallardo win Goalkeeper of the Year and Yordany Alvarez won League MVP and now plays for RSL.  Another noticeable award was Kevin Molino winning the 2012 MVP as well.

 

Owners Financial Backing
San Antonio Scorpions
Gordon Hartman is a former real estate developer who is a millionaire many times over.  The Scorpions operate on a very unique financial status though. In fact, no other professional club does things the way San Antonio does. ALL of the profits that are brought in go directly to Morgan’s Wonderland, an amusement park that cost $32.5 million to build and is spread over 25 acres designed to accommodate children and adults with special cognitive and physical needs.  The slogan of the team is that the Scorpions are “Soccer For A Cause.” The only concern among supporters is that because of where the profits are going, the team would turn down better players because of high contracts.  Hartman has proven in the past that he’s not afraid to spend money to get the bigger name players as he brought in former MLS and Mexican League stars. 

Orlando City SC
Earlier in the year, a new owner, Brazilian businessman Flávio Augusto da Silva, made a significant investment in the future of Orlando City.  Looking at past years, Orlando City has had the privilege of bringing in international friendlies that include the likes of Stoke City, Bolton Wanders, Newcastle, and most recently A.S. Roma. This tradition looks to continue in 2013, upon the heels of announcing the new owner Flávio Augusto da Silva, Orlando City announced they would be playing an international friendly against the Fluminense Football Club on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at the Fifth Third Bank Field at the Florida Citrus Bowl. The club continues to bring in top talents from around the world to continue to challenge the team and bring the beautiful game to the city of Orlando.

 

Media Coverage
San Antonio Scorpions
San Antonio has very good coverage in San Antonio. There are several journalists (myself included) who follow the team closely. San Antonio’s local newspaper, “San Antonio Express News” almost daily covers the Scorpions in some form of capacity.  On Fridays and Saturdays, it’s not unusual to see an image of one of the Scorpions on the front page of the Sports section, which is usually dominated by high school football or the San Antonio Spurs.  Local news stations do weekly recaps of San Antonio’s home games and, occasionally, invite a player on the show.  Recently, Good Morning SA interviewed Hans Denissen about how Gordon Hartman keeps 0% of the profits that come in from the Scorpions. KSAT 12 and MeTV recently signed a deal with the Scorpions to air 13 of their home games. News Radio 1200 WOAI in San Antonio named Gordon Hartman, the owner of the San Antonio NASL its San Antonian of the Year for 2010 as well. His extensive work on Morgan’s Wonderland and his Soccer For A Cause were big attributes in WOAI honoring him with this award.

Orlando City SC
Many Lions can be found on the local stations including: WFTV Channel 9, WKMG Local 6, News 13 and WESH 2 News. Whether they are promoting a game, raising awareness for the Orlando City Soccer Foundation or raising awareness for additional causes; the Lions are highly focused on community outreach. Recently, Phil Rawlins was on WESH 2 News promoting the season opener and Jamie Watson and James O’Connor were featured guests to promote the summer youth camps. The Lions are regularly in the local newspapers the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Weekly for game promotions and awareness for the Orlando City Soccer Foundation. This past week the Lions were in the Orlando Sentinel and featured on many of the broadcasting stations for achieving a record-setting attendance of 9,140 fans. For 2013, the Lions introduced their new SoccerCast, or podcast as some would call it, hosted by Daniel Dennis; which in the next few months will be featured by the new Lions App for iPhone and Android. 

 

TV Deals
San Antonio Scorpions
San Antonio Scorpions recently signed a huge deal with local station KSAT 12. Just days before the opening of Toyota Field, KSAT 12 and its sister station MeTV agreed to televise 13 San Antonio Scorpions games this season. Three of those matches, including the Scorpion’s home opener that was played on April 13, will be broadcast on the ABC affiliate in prime time. Scorpions officials said that KSAT and MeTV will air additional home games in 2013. Those broadcasts will be announced at a later date.  You can watch all of the San Antonio Scorpions games online via
USTREAM as well.

Orlando City SC
Orlando currently has no TV Deal for the Lions.  You can, however, watch all of the games online at USL’s own
 UNATION.

 

I’d like to thank Kim Sisneros for helping contribute to the Orlando City side of things.  If you want to see more from Kim, check out ruckustilwedie.com and you can follow her on twitter @kasisneros.

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5 Comments

  1. Great article and great points from both sides. As an OCSC supporter, obviously I want my team to be the next franchise in the MLS, and with Mr. Garber wanting a team in the Southeast, I think Orlando will be next. But honestly, I would love to see San Antonio in the MLS as well, before or instead of another poorly supported team in New York!

  2. This is kind of a no brainer based on the criteria.
    SAS have almost every advantage. To that point, I’m not sure MLS is using this criteria and i thinkbwant OCSC before SAS. 3 franchises in Texas is too much with Florida being clubless.
    So SAS is easily more ready, but isn’t what MLS is seeking right now.

    • That sounds about right. If we’re talking in sheer terms of attendance and long-term infrastructure, San Antonio have everything in place right now (although the investment of profit into the amusement park, while admirable, might give the MLS pause when considering their business motives for expanding the franchise).

      But the fact is that the MLS isn’t looking at just those kind of numbers, which explains their continued support for New England, Columbus, and Chivas. They’re operating on exclusively a market location criteria, and unfortunately, I think San Antonio is in too flooded a market to be considered for a while. Hopefully, they can make enough noise and sustain enough support that, eventually, MLS won’t be able to ignore them.

  3. I believe both cities are worthy, and the level of support that San Antonio has in such a relative short period time is awesome! Just take the Dallas MLS franchise and give it to SA and announce that Atlanta, NY#2 and Orlando are all going to be aboard for 2015 to bring the league to 22.

    But if there is only one… Orlando!

  4. Based solely on the logos I’d say Orlando. But yet another red team with a 90′s minor league logo? San Antonio look to be ready for MLS 1996.

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