(Humming 'Dueling Banjos' as I Write This)

>> Sunday

A columnist for Georgia's Gwinnett Herald writes in an oddly titled piece that "The South Needs MLS." MLS has recently announced plans to expand to Seattle in 2009, and Philadelphia in 2010. Another round of expansion by two teams is likely to follow in 2011; with the leading candidates being St. Louis, Portland, Ottawa, Vancouver, Miami, Montreal, and New York City (Queens). The closest MLS presently gets to the South is Washington, DC, Columbus, Ohio, and then a whole lotta nothing between there and Houston. Note lack of Southeastern cities' interest.

The writer then shows why Commissioner Don Garber is calling the shots, and he's writing for Atlanta's version of the Daily Herald. The entire piece seems motivated only by the author's desire to personally have a team, yet he almost goes out of his way to show why the region doesn't deserve one.

First off, let's deal with the poor wording of a headline. As far as TV ratings go with a national TV contract, MLS needs the South more than the South appears to need MLS.

Our writer says that he lived in Europe for a while and would love to get swept up in that soccer culture again by having his own team. My response is..."What soccer culture"? The SEC is one of only two BCS-level NCAA conferences that doesn't offer a championship in Men's Soccer (The Big XII is the other). I think that's due to several reasons, one being the cultural prominence of football and the region's success at the college level and bringing up a wealth of successful players from Florida to Texas and everywhere in between. There may also still be a cultural stigma attached of regular, normal, southerners not wanting anything to do with a pansy sport like kickball with all its fer'n'rs and queer-o-sexuals.

He also points out the notorious fair-weather fans in Atlanta, and even more specifically, points out the two failed attempts for MLS to place teams in the South, in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale in the early years of the league and how it was pretty much an abysmal failure. Again, not that surprising.

He thinks a team would work well in Carolina (and to an extent I agree with him there), but he offers Greensboro as a possible site. There we part ways. Now, I can't speak from experience because I've never been to Greensboro, but perhaps that should be telling as to Greensboro's drawing power as a city.
He thinks a Carolina team (in Charlotte, Greensboro, or Raleigh) would do well to market themselves as "the Southeast's team" much like the Atlanta Braves have done. He makes this suggestion apparently unaware of the vast difference popularly, financially, and culturally between MLB and MLS. Case in point; the Red Sox are arguably a "regional team" representing all or most of New England. Same with the New England Revolution. Fenway sells out every night. The Revs have trouble drawing more than 15,000 to games.
Personally, I think that St. Louis and Miami are probably the next two to get in, but think St. Louis and Portland (and maybe Montreal) probably most deserve to get in. We'll probably see it announced either at the Board of Governors Meeting at MLS Cup in November, or before the MLS Draft in January in St. Louis, which I will be covering for YCS.


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