How to Make Soccer Work in the Bay Area

March 26, 2015

By: Evan Chu

Even though the Quakes are entering into their 18th season in Major League Soccer, they are still relatively unknown in the Bay Area.  Why?  How come?  How can that be changed?

First, the Quakes need to increase popularity.  In order to increase popularity, they have to win.  Many people in the Bay Area haven’t even heard of the Quakes let alone they’re from San Jose.  They support their Manchester Uniteds, Arsenals, Barcelonas, Real Madrids.  Let’s face it.  The Bay Area only supports winners.   The Giants are popular because they win.  The Sharks are popular because they win.  The Niners are popular because they win.  The Giants drew 10,000­-25,000 before they finished 2nd in ’93, when they’re 3­6th (with the exception of ’89, and ’97) each season in the west.  The Niners drew 30,000,-50,000 before they drafted Montana.  The California Golden Seals were a huge failure, drawing 4,000­-7,000, in the ’60s­-’70s until the Sharks came along and started making the playoffs.  Soccer is quickly becoming a sport in competition with baseball (again) and a winner would boost the Quakes popularity.

Second, we need owners that are committed to win in order to be successful on the field.  In order to win, we need to field a competitive team.  We need owners who can commit to fielding a winning team.  A team with Perez Garcias and Emegharas will not beat teams with Kakas, Villas, Lampards, Gerrards, Altidores, Bradleys, Dempseys, Torreses on a consistent basis.  Players who can change the momentum of a game in a second.  Players who can lead a team to an MLS Cup Final.  The Quakes don’t have that ‘it’ player which they would need if they want to win silverware and earn more exposure to the local community.  We need financial backing from owners.  We need an owner willing to pay for that ‘it’ player.  Major League Soccer is becoming one of the most internationally recognized leagues for transferring players.  Advertising boards in New England, Seattle, New York City, London, Miami, Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Route 66, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador won’t help anyone succeed on and off the field. Don’t get me wrong,  I appreciate everything John Fisher and Lew Wolff have done for this soccer club.  But there’s still a lot of work to do before the Quakes will be taken seriously in the bay area and we need an owner, whether it’s Fisher or someone else, who is willing to take that next step.

Third, there is no local mainstream media attention.  The Quakes are practically never mentioned.  There are indications at times regarding the new stadium, a big time matchup, and the new CBA.  But rarely a competitive game result.  There isn’t even a Quakes page on the San Francisco Chronicle website.  The Quakes are never mentioned on any sports segment on a local news program or in a mainstream newspaper, at least not to my knowledge, and this is coming from someone who watches local news every day.

With all these major issues, does soccer even have a chance to succeed in the Bay Area?  The Quakes sold 11,000+ season tickets this year. 50,000+ attend every Cali Clasico at Stanford Stadium since 2012.  48,765 attended last year’s game against the Seattle Sounders at Levi’s Stadium.  62,583 attended last year’s friendly between Real Madrid and Inter Milan at the California Memorial Stadium.  41,028 attended the game between the Quakes and the New York Red Bulls at Stanford Stadium four years ago.  47,338 attended the friendly between Real Madrid and Club América at Candlestick Park five years ago. 61,572 attended the doubleheader with San Jose playing the Columbus Crew and FC Barcelona playing Chivas de Guadalajara six years ago. 39,872 attended the Cali Clasico game at the Oakland­-Alameda County Coliseum seven years ago.  73,123 attended the doubleheader with San Jose playing DC United and the United States playing Brazil in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup at the old Stanford Stadium.  Judging by these enormous attendance figures, the potential for a successful team in the Bay Area is enormous.  However, without major changes, soccer will forever be a minor league sport in the Bay Area.

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