A View from Afar / MLS

Your new favorite MLS club is…

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Your new favorite MLS club this year should be the Columbus Crew.

Your new favorite player is their goalkeeper, Downingtown’s own Zack Steffen.

And your new favorite pastime is sticking it to The Man.

The Man here is played by Anthony Precourt, the filthy rich venture capitalist son of a Texas oilman who waltzed into Columbus to steal the team on the cheap and move them to Austin, Tex. He found a backdoor way to get an MLS team at a discount rate ($68 million, vs. $100 million-plus for expansion clubs), secured his get-out-of-Columbus-free card in the deal as long as he waited a few years, dropped in minimal commitment — yes, he replaced the stadium scoreboard, but only after it exploded during a game — and decided to move to Austin, Tex., unless he gets a new downtown stadium.

A privately financed stadium. As in paid for by private interests. Which usually means the team owners.

He complains the city government isn’t doing enough to build a stadium. Even though the city government is the public part. Which means, you know, not private. Which means they don’t pay for the stadium.

(Or he wants free land. Or tax abatements. Or for them to pay for the stadium. It’s probably all these, really.)

So he must mean some other private folks. Who we don’t know. Who don’t own the team. To finance the stadium of a club they don’t own.

Yeah, it all makes total sense.

There’s a term in the journalism trade for this. It’s called bulls**t.

Latest in a long tradition

If this sounds familiar, it’s because filthy rich people have been stealing teams from American and Canadian communities for years.

Some Oklahoma oilmen did to the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics ten years ago, indirectly paving the way for the Seattle Sounders phenomenon. Jeffrey Loria killed the Montreal Expos to fund his purchase of the Miami Marlins.*

The stadium extortion racket is so common that another money-grubbing team thief did it to another Major League team from Ohio in one of the greatest and most hilarious sports movies ever made.

And that brings us to today, days after the Crew upset Atlanta United in front of a record playoff crowd of 67,221 fans in a ridiculously exciting game.

There’s only one thing for the Columbus Crew to do now.

Your task, MLS fans — and it will be fun, I promise — is to root for them all the way.

The Crew now get a home playoff game. They need to sell it out.

They need to win. And keep winning. And keep selling out playoff games.

If they win the MLS Cup, it will send a steaming pile of excrement to Precourt and every multi-millionaire do-the-minimum owner like him and announce, “This is our sport. This is our club. We give these teams everything we have. Now it’s your turn.”

Because that’s the essence of MLS. It’s why we can love these teams, root for them, and relate to them in a completely different way than we can with the other major sports leagues in North America. We still have that innocence.

No MLS club has ever relocated and permanently left its fans without a club. EVER. When the first San Jose club moved to Houston, most understood why, and a new club was established to replace it.

That won’t happen with Columbus. We all know this. If they leave, MLS is gone for good from Columbus. A USL club might incorporate in Columbus, but that’s it.

Send a message, or it could be you next

You should want to stop this. Not just because it’s wrong, but because it sets a precedent. It could happen to you too someday if, for example, your team ranks 19th in attendance in MLS for too long.

But also because it will be fun.

Columbus is a fun team to watch. They’re creative, they attack, they’re the underdog, they have a cause, and their goalkeeper is a guy from the Philly area who, well, the Union should have signed since he played for their youth operation, but whatever, that’s another story. (In fact, let’s not think about that all.)

Austin, Tex. could be a great place for a team. Sure, the other teams in Texas, Houston and Dallas, ranked 17th and 22nd in attendance of the 22 MLS clubs this year — same as most years, really — but hey, the fourth largest city in Texas is sure to do much better than the bigger towns.

If Austin really wants a team, let Precourt go the expansion route, the same as everyone else.

This team belongs to someplace else. Someplace that hosted some of the greatest games in U.S. soccer history, that built the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS, whose original MLS club has won an MLS Cup, a U.S. Open Cup, and three Supporters Shields. Sure, they could use a better stadium, but if the owner really wants to build a privately funded downtown Columbus stadium, then let him pay for it.

We should all be Columbus fans today. Remind the league of the most significant reason that MLS is finally making the leap to the big time.

It’s because of you, the fans.

And if the millionaires and billionaires won’t back you, then you just have to send the message yourself.

#SaveTheCrew!

28 Comments

  1. Damn straight. It’s Columbus or bust for me with this round of MLS playoffs. Couldn’t care otherwise.

    Good piece in the Guardian about the whole bullshitty affair:
    https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2017/oct/26/columbus-crew-move-austin-texas-mls

  2. I’ve already written to my ticket rep on the matter and encourage everyone to do the same. Fans of every team need to stand up to this garbage.
    .
    The MLS doesn’t have the same leverage as MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA. Those leagues are the best in the world. MLS may not be the best in the world, but we go because these teams are OUR teams, they are more than just a franchise… or so MLS has been telling us the past half decade.
    .
    Does anyone not think that Sugarman wouldn’t threaten to move the team to Baltimore or maybe a joint stadium in NYC with NYCFC in a few years once the lease in Chester is coming to a close?
    .
    Personally, I plan to go to the Crew’s playoff game (possibly in Union gear) on Sunday in New York and support them.

    • If Sugarman wants to take the Union elsewhere, let him. The Union would be replaced. I’d rather bet on a new owner spending to win, than Sugarman’s track record.

      • MLS would come back once we offer them a sweetheart deal for a stadium located in a prime location in the city, nothing less.
        .
        Teams shouldn’t be able to extort fans in that manner.

    • I thought I heard Kevin Kinkead say the union have a 30 yr lease in Chester. Is that not true? I can’t put into words how dumb it was to have the stadium so far away from the city. I don’t want to say I want them to abandon it and build a new one because that would be so wasteful but I resent the requirement to drive instead of taking a train

      • Yup, lease runs through 2040.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        Regional rail drops you of at highland ave and you can walk to the stadium in 15 minutes. Better yet you can stop along the way at one of the local watering holes on 2nd street and spend some money in the local economy like a good neighbor.

      • John- one season i took the train to almost every game. the part that drives me crazy is usually having to wait for over an hour for the train to arrive to take me home. i wouldn’t get home until over two hours after the final whistle

  3. ________ Just Blows.

  4. Equally slimy is what MLS did to San Antonio telling them to go ahead with publicly-funded stadium plans, all the while knowing that Precourt had the bailout clause in his purchase agreement to move Colombus down the road to Austin. Disgusting. I hope San Antonio sues the pants off of MLS.

  5. Apparently the potential San Antonio ownership group is seeking a lawsuit against MLS for its deceptive advice that they should purchase the stadium they play in. The league told the potential SA team that there would only be either an Austin team or a San Antonio team, not both. They however did not tell them that a current team owner had a league sanctioned plan to move an already existing team to Austin.

  6. #SaveTheCrew

    #SaveTheUnionFromSugarman

  7. Bob Uripides says:

    Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has directed the county attorney to look into this.

    San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenburg has directed the city attorney to look into this.

    Now all we need is San Antonio Spurs Sports and Entertainment to get their (no doubt higher priced) lawyers on this since it is they who will have to eat a $5M penalty payment if no San Antonio MLS team is in the works in a couple of years.

    • Here’s a way MLS can avoid trouble….. Wait for it…. Open the pyramid.

      This really is a shit show though, isn’t it?

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        What pyramid? Affiliated USL and dying NASL?

      • Those Leagues need to restructure. If it means merging NASL or dissolving it, so be it. Make USL the Tier 2 and 3 league. NASL teams can stay indie if they want or move to the new USL.

        Wynalda for Pres.

  8. Bob Uripides says:

    Meanwhile, in Austin, the town that couldn’t support even a Div 3 USL franchise is yawning wildly, wondering when the next UT football game kicks off.

    • There have been crickets from the Austin side of things.
      .
      They are in a no-win situation to be fair though. Austin is as much of a victim here as well, being tarnished through no fault of their own.
      .
      That being said – Go Crew! Go show Garber you’re not dead yet.
      .
      #SaveTheCrew

  9. Brett Baker says:

    Come to Columbus and be a part of the party tomorrow night. Tickets available starting at $27! Of course they gave us the Halloween night game so we’re having trouble selling out with so much of our base being families. We’d love to have you, should be an entertaining match!

  10. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    For the record, Montreal Expos didn’t move to Miami. Miami and Tampa Bay were expansion teams along with Arizona and Colorado. Montreal moved to Washington and became the Nationals. And I guess generations later no one remembers….at least not in this comment section.

    • You beat me to it, but you’re right. The owner of the Marlins – John Henry – bought the Red Sox. He then sold the Marlins to Jeffrey Loria and baseball bought the Expos from him. Eventually they moved them to Washington, but lost in all that was the fact that MLB had voted 28-2 to contract both the Expos and the Twins. The only thing that saved the Twins – a brand new stadium, partially publicly financed. As unfair as it may be, owners can leverage a team move to make the city pay for some or all of the stadium, with little or no benefit to the city.
      —–
      Conversely, MLS could just step up and buy the team back to keep them in Columbus and give Precourt an expansion team in Texas, but like the NFL they may not really care about the fans at all.

    • Ah, thanks for the correction. A little rusty on that knowledge, and I inadvertently condensed what Loria did. (i.e. Kill the Expos, sell them to MLB, use the money to buy the Marlins.) I’ve corrected the post accordingly.

  11. This is pretty amazing: https://www.massivereport.com/2017/10/31/16578996/exclusive-e-mail-hoax-on-precourt-sports-venture-reveals-information-on-relocation-columbus-crew-sc

    The Crew are screwed. Only thing that will save them is intervention from MLS. And we all know how likely that is.

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