Saturday, October 21, 2017

ColumbuSCrewed: Disillusion and Loathing for American soccer, MLS, and USMNT

It's been a crap couple of weeks for American soccer fans, so if you're not among those, this post may not be for you.

The USMNT's spectacular flameout of World Cup Qualifying was one punch to the gut. Oooof.

Now this from the fevered egos that have been quote "growing the game" unquote, here at the U.S.'s professional level, MLS:

Crew SC exploring new Columbus stadium or potential move to Austin

Columbus Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt announced on Tuesday that the club is looking at strategic options to ensure the long-term viability of the club, including a new stadium in Columbus or a potential move to the city of Austin, Texas.

Precourt Sports Ventures (PSV) acquired Crew SC in July 2013 from Hunt Sports Group, the original owners of the club since its founding as an MLS charter club in 1996.

In the last few years, Major League Soccer had made at least a few strides away from the typical stadium grift that has enveloped all pro team sports in North America, as billionaire owners in the Twin Cities, Orlando, and Los Angeles had (mostly) paid for new stadiums out of their own ends. Now this.

Columbus’s (likely) move looks terrible for MLS, as if to say: “Yes we are just as greedy and short-sighted as all the rest.” Yes the black’n’yellow have had some attendance issues, but so have many teams, ahem, especially the older ones. The Crew are an Original 10 franchise, they have won the Cup, and three Supporters’ Shields, and routinely make the playoffs. Their stadium may be older than others, but it was the FIRST soccer-specific stadium MLS conceived, and it has been a stalwart home for the national team, which has always played well there.

As a Fire fan, I would miss having an organic, regional rival not dreamed up in some marketers’ coke-binge. Every single ounce of coverage from Austin seems to suggest that the glorious downtown stadium Precourt is talking about THERE is little more than a pipe dream, along with a fair amount of: “Okay so wait, what’s MLS now again?” They are clueless, and will at least be NO BETTER than Columbus is as a home for top flight soccer in the US. Sure! Let’s trade a small-market college sports town for another one, and it will somehow be ten times better! Big mistake MLS, and big mistake Precourt. You don’t shit on one of your oldest fan-bases. I don’t care if they ARE so fucking yellow.**

Sure, let’s add some more Texas franchises into the current mix. Those two in Dallas (sort of) and Houston are doing so well building the culture down there, where they are near the BOTTOM of the league in attendance and local relevance. And if Austin officials were really so enthralled with having an MLS squad locally why wouldn’t they, you know, put in an expansion bid like every other city in the whole country did this past year?

I gotta be honest . . . the more I think about this, the more it stinks. They announce this shit RIGHT BEFORE the playoffs begin? Are they DELIBERATELY trying to sink the team’s hopes and hype? It would look pretty shitty to have, say for example, an Eastern Conference Champ packing their bags for a new market. This gets particularly interesting as the Crew is now the hottest team in MLS on the pitch - 6-0-3 in their last nine games. (Just spitballing here, I want the Fire to win the Cup, although I think TFC is a way better squad than we are right now.)

At any rate the PoS Precourt can’t seem to get his lies straight. He’s been saying since he bought the club that he was committed to Columbus, except that now it comes out that when the team was sold to him, he had language inserted into the sale that says the ONLY city the team could move to was Austin, and his marketing of the team - which is tearing up MLS on the field right now, btw - has been absolute shit. Again, this has all the makings of a deliberate, longish, con. It seems everyone who cares to know is aware that one of the Crew's betst players, Federico Higuain, is out this winter. Thus will Precourt be able to claim: “Oh see? No support,” when the Columbus faithful do the rational thing and decide not to show up for this obvious tank job.

Precourt says he wants Columbus to help him build a stadium, but that he’ll join the big boys and pay for one himself if they move to Austin?- like the bigger boys in Minnesota, Orlando, and LaFC did. Sure - real “committed to Columbus,” DICK. I know Chicago is a bigger market than Columbus, but the implication is pretty clear - if this PoS can do it, so can ANY MLS owner.

I want the Fire to win the Cup, let’s be clear. But if somehow the Yellows outlast us in the Playoffs, I will be pulling for Columbus this year, just because of the glorious FU it would be to their asshole owner and MLS brass. Good luck explaining to the world why an MLS Champ has to leave town. Watching that would be delicious.

** - a riff off my favorite anti-Crew pro-Fire chant.

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