Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park
During Major League Soccer’s recent All Star Game, Commissioner Don Garber announced the addition of four expansion teams to the league. The league currently sits at 19 teams, but will grow to 24 teams by the end of the decade (New York City FC will be joining the MLS in 2015).
There was a certain municipality conspicuously missing from the speculation about which cities were getting a team. Spoiler alert: It’s San Francisco! Isn't it time that our world-class city got its very own world-class soccer team? If you are a venture capitalist, or a tech billionaire, or just a regular rich person, why not step onto the pitch? We're serious about it—and here's why.
In 2011, we hosted 1.5 million visitors from England, France, and Germany. Don't you think that groups of traveling Englishmen would relish the opportunity to catch some local "football" during the English Premier League's off season?
We Already Love Soccer
San Francisco has a thriving and growing soccer culture that has all but flushed out the American agnosticism towards the sport. There are 30 SF establishments listed on Worldsoccerbars.com. Local soccer fans are already getting up at ungodly hours of the morning to watch European teams play. Three years ago, thousands watched the World Cup between Spain and the Netherlands across from City Hall at a completely packed Civic Center plaza. A new SF team would be tapping into a deep well of demand that already exists.
San Jose's Team Is Boring
Yes, the Bay Area already has the Earthquakes, down in San Jose. But soccer superfan Mike Gonos argues that "the Earthquakes have taken the path of being a very quiet, suburban family-oriented club, with a small market attitude. SF can succeed by going in the opposite direction—big time, urban, edgy, noisy."
We Have the Money
To get an MLS team here, we can exploit an enormous advantage—the gazillion dollars in venture capital that is currently floating around. Just ask Richard Florida over at The Atlantic Cities. The 94107 (Potrero Hill, South Beach) zip code has more than twice the VC dollars than that of San Jose Chancelor Pele Daniel, who runs the youth sports program at the JCCSF and is a devoted fan of English Premier League team Arsenal, says “If [an investor] wanted to make a long term investment in a global sport that is growing in popularity this is the place to do it.”
We Have Space for a Stadium—and a Potential Team
The three most likely options are Kezar Stadium, a new stadium on the site of Candlestick, and Pier 50, the site that some had suggested for the Warriors' stadium. Kezar has a capacity for 9,040 people and would make for a good transition stadium that would eventually need to be expanded. The Candlestick area is already set up for a stadium. And Pier 50 would have amazing waterfront views. As for an actual team, San Francisco already has a minor league equivalent, called The Stompers. Unlike major league baseball, American pro soccer takes its cues from the European league system, meaning that lower division teams can move up into the premier league. In Europe, they promote based on merit—if you win enough games you move up. But this is America—we don't care about skill, but cash. A massive infusion of money was enough to bring up the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers from the minors to MLS. "It would absolutely be better to 'promote' a team," says Gonos. "It allows you to build up the strong local fan base and it demonstrates to potential backers of an expansion bid that the market for the team exists."
So, to reiterate, we have the culture, the money, the stadium space, and the team. Now the only question is when will somebody like Ron Conway, Marc Benioff, or Biz Stone come forward? Because, come on rich dudes, we can't let Sacramento get a team before we do.