Future for MLS in El Paso still bright

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Future for MLS in El Paso still bright

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

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On July 6, the exhibition match between Chivas Guadalajara and Cruzeiro E.C. added more fuel to the fire as El Pasoans are strung out on the world’s most popular sport.

With limited time for marketing the game, costly ticket prices for fans across the border and rainy weather, the fan turnout was impressive. Only half of the Sun Bowl was opened for seating, leaving about 26,000 seats available for purchase.

In total, 15,171 fans attended the game. Considering the slow ticket sales all week, it turned out to be a success. On the day of the game, more than 6,500 tickets were sold, according to the UTEP ticket office.

With the Sun Bowl’s oval-shaped configuration, the setting for soccer match was perfect. Grass was even brought in for the game, the first time the Sun Bowl has had grass in 40 years.

The Sun Bowl itself has been host to soccer over the years—the now defunct El Paso Patriots of the Premier Development League (PDL) played in the Sun Bowl from 1989-2001. Chivas Guadalajara and Cruzeiro E.C. are a step up from the now-defunct Patriots.

The game itself was a disappointment for most fans— the vast majority of them were decked out in the red-and-white striped Chivas jerseys. Although the Chivas supporters went home empty handed, the atmosphere they created was the story of the match.

Chants of “Chivas, Chivas, Chivas!” echoed through the stadium, despite half of it being empty. The pictures of the gloomy sky or empty seats may show otherwise, but the fans made the game a success.

Coming off another club title, Cruzeiro defeata Chivas de Guadalajada 2-0 in their last friendly match of the 2014 season.

Coming off another club title, Cruzeiro defeata Chivas de Guadalajada 2-0 in their last friendly match of the 2014 season.

KINT Univision reporter Harry Ruiz, who was the public announcer for the game, said more fans would have attended if ticket prices were lower for fans across the boarder.

“They could have done better if the ticket prices were a little bit lower,” said Ruiz. “They could have attracted an even bigger fan base from Juarez. When all the ticket fees from ticketmaster goes through, it comes out to about $24 and in Mexico that’s about 300 pesos. In Juarez it is a lot. If the prices were lower they could have fit in around 35,000 people.”

The 15,000 fans in attendance nearly matched the average MLS attendance. The average MLS attendance in 2013 was 18,608, according to mlssoccer.com.

“They could have marketed the game a little better, but with the time they had, they did their best effort,” Ruiz said. “But it’s a good step— 15,000 fans in a three-week span, it was a good outcome and good for El Paso.”

It is still too early to tell, but if 15,000 fans turn out in less than a month and more than 6,000 fans purchase tickets the day of the event, the future might be bright for MLS in El Paso. The improvements that need to be made are not the fans’ support, but the organization, marketing and planning of forthcoming events.

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected] 

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