MLS, too early to tell

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MLS, too early to tell

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

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It finally looks like the sixth-largest city in Texas is getting its due. In the past week, MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the El Paso Chihuahuas, has been in talks with Major League Soccer about bringing an expansion team to El Paso.

By 2020, the MLS is looking to expand from 19 to 24 teams, and El Paso seems to be one of the candidates for an expansion team.

El Paso always seems to be the big city that misses out on the fun and entertainment, and in the past other sports teams have failed. After the Diablos franchise disbanded in 2004, then once again in 2013, baseball seemed to be out of the picture entirely.

Then there was the El Paso Patriots soccer team and an arena football team, the El Paso Generals, and sadly those failed too. Professional sports in El Paso seemed to be a venture that would never really work in the end.

But when MountainStar Sports Group came calling and asked El Paso to blow up city hall, we did it faster than you can say Chihuahuas. You can call it desperate, but for the time being the Chihuahuas have worked out for the city.

With this news, people should not get their hopes up because the process of the MLS bringing in five-expansion team is still early. The obvious and redundant statement made all the time now is that nobody in the United States cares about soccer.

The MLS is still not a major staple in American sports or media. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are still the most popular sports leagues in the US. The MLS has had a history of failed, stalled and speculative expansions.

Cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Oklahoma City, Pittsburg and St. Louis have all been failed destinations that the MLS has tried. Permanency is not a trait that the MLS has established in its 21 years.

The only certainty is that the MLS will have 24 teams in 2020. New York City, Miami, Atlanta and Orlando have already booked four of the five teams, which leaves El Paso, and who knows how many other cities, fighting for the last spot.

If El Paso did get an MLS expansion team, it would be great. For starters, the MLS is not a supreme sporting league, especially when it comes to soccer. The world’s best soccer athletes play all over Europe, predominantly in Spain, England
and Germany.

A team here would make sense, as El Paso is a big city, but not a big market. The cost of living in the city is low, with many people living below the poverty level. There is no way an expansion NFL or NBA team could make out here in the desert, especially with the inflated ticket prices now.

An MLS team in El Paso could actually turn a profit, plus it would bring fans over from the border. Since El Paso is basically an extension of Ciudad Juárez and vice versa, the metropolitan area of both cities is crazy for soccer.

There would be no problem with selling out games or trying to find ways to bring people to a game on a Tuesday night. You don’t have to sell the people of El Paso on the idea of professional soccer.

Soccer in Mexico is wildly popular, but the quality of the game there doesn’t compare to soccer in Europe. Considering the demographics, socioeconomic status and size of El Paso, there are no certainties for a struggling professional league like the MLS. It would be a perfect fit, but the city of El Paso should not get their hopes up.

The only question is: What will the city blow up next? The Plaza?

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

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