I'm still so happy for #SaveTheCrew becoming #SavedTheCrew. I genuinely think this is one of the best things that could have happened for the league, for soccer fans, and for sports fans. The ramifications of this success story could remake the whole landscape. If one were to really gaze into the Palantir like a fool of a Took, one might imagine what it would mean for any business to be answerable for accepting tax money, especially when it comes to things like shipping jobs overseas. Perhaps by the time #SaveTheCrew are inducted into Frisco as Builders, books will be written about how a gutty group of hundreds of disagreeable sports fans changed the world.
But there were two victims of Precourt Sports Ventures that have not received justice. Fortunately, I think these particular cases can be resolved down the road.
For more than a decade now, San Antonio has been on the "Oh, sure, why not" list of MLS potential expansion sites. Anthony Precourt and Don Garber were instrumental in keeping the Spurs from making a coherent, focused bid. Would the Spurs have balked at the scale of promises made in Nashville and Cincinnati? We'll probably never know, because of the Austin fiasco.
Assuming the Spurs aren't completely soured on the whole embarrassing process, Austin's promised team is more reason to include San Antonio, not less. Closely located rival teams should not be limited to cities from which Snake Plissken has escaped. No one seriously suggested the Sons of Ben settle for supporting the Red Bulls or DC United simply because they were two or three hours away. Cincinnati and Columbus will prove that mid-size cities can support big money games. The idea that either Austin or San Antonio would draw fans from each other was always sketchy, especially compared to the numbers both teams would draw against each other.
Having a Texas Division would also help Dallas and Houston a lot, probably almost as much as buying advertising telling people that they play soccer games. There's no reason not to put a team in San Antonio, certainly not because Austin has been cursed with Anthony Precourt.
By the way, not at all certain that Precourt will ever field a team again, in Austin or anywhere else. I just don't see his losing streak ending. I realize he's technically still the Crew owner, but he checked out a year ago. If the Crew win MLS Cup this year, they should hand the trophy to the Nordecke.
Assuming Columbus is the home team, which brings us to the other casualty of Precourt's Folly: Columbus Crew Stadium, and with it Columbus as a home for American national team soccer.
One could argue that The House that Lamar Built was aging out of its capitol status, but it wasn't merely superstition that kept Columbus in the national team rotation. Ohio is centrally located state (more so if you go by population instead of geography) with what we can now all agree is an unimpeachably strong soccer fanbase. But maintenance is a thing, or at least was, before Precourt applied logistics and infrastructure tactics from the pages of "A World Without People." Since all parties agree that a new stadium is needed for the Crew long-term, well, even a trustworthy and conscientious owner would think twice about pouring too too much money into Mapfre Stadium restoration. I think Crew fans would settle for it to reach once again the status of "worthy to ask people to pay money to get into."
But that's not going to be good enough for the US national teams, at least for games worth playing. Read: Mexico.
I am merely evil, not rich and evil, so I can't pretend to see into the mind of the soon-to-be-Crew chief, the fraudster who is the second worst owner in Ohio pro football. What he should do is build a little jewel of a soccer stadium, 30K max, something worthy of being the Official Home of the Mexico Qualifier.
I don't want to call it the home of the national team, because the country is too big and too sexy to be held down to just one capital. And while there were business reasons as well as emotional reasons to Save the Crew, I don't really even have more than sentimental reasons to make Columbus a permanent fixture for Mex in the Hex. It just feels like that's where that game should be played.
We are no longer entertaining "competitive" or "home field advantage" arguments for scheduling CONCACAF opponents anywhere, with the POSSIBLE exception of not playing our home game against Mexico at the LA Coliseum. The US national teams are at a point where they should expect fans to show up to important games, barring unreasonable ticket pricing. To worry about home field advantage is to cover the Spaghetti of Soccer with the Sauce of Weakness. In other words, the next time you want to blame travelling Belize fans for one of our pratfalls, tell it to me walking. Off a pier.
Those are pretty much the remaining issues that MLS needs to clean up, or compel Precourt to clean up. Everything else couldn't be better.
As it happens, I'm actually going to the next Crew game to close this regular season, one of the weirdest in MLS history and certainly the weirdest in Crew history. I thought I was going to attend a funeral, but turns out the corpse is awake and shotgunning. Crew Stadium has seen some wonderful soccer moments over the years, but Sunday is going to rank among the best.
Even if Columbus jobs to the Loons and blows the playoff spot to Montreal. Just as likely they win and get the 4-spot and at least one more home game, though. Especially with the only thing standing between the Crew and the playoffs is Brad Friedel's motivational ability.
This last Sunday of the regular season had no right to be interesting, but if you believe that the number two seed is a much bigger deal than the extra game the lower seeds have, and if you further believe that three and four are much better to have than road games at five and six? And you should, since I went to the trouble of typing out how important I think it is? Then there is lots of interest going on, besides just Real Salt Lake fuming at home hoping the Galaxy flop at home against Houston. The joy of a league with an odd number of teams.
The Sounders seem to be building a brand around stinking all summer then waking up in time to charge into the playoffs, and their reward could conceivably be the number two seed. That would depend on Colorado deciding to end a terrible season on a high note, so three is probably more likely. LAFC will probably drop to fourth after their game at Kansas City…and will also miss a potential date with the Galaxy in the first round of the playoffs. How great would that have been? New York FC and Philadelphia will play to see who hosts which play-in game – wait, Philadelphia?! – and I don't think that's trivial, since DC United are a lot hotter than either Columbus or Montreal. Of course, it might be Columbus in the five spot if DC rests in Bridgeview. The joy of eleven simultaneous kickoffs.
Philadelphia. Huh. Must be the new mascot. Way to go, Phang.