I have been following soccer in the United States for 43 years. Every year without failure (especially every 4 years when the World Cup comes around), there will be some sort of discussion about when soccer will arrive or make it in the United States. This discussion will then usually be followed by a fossil journalist (or many of them) who, in their once every four years soccer article, will drag out the tired and tedious “joke” about how soccer is the sport of the future…and it always will be.
Please allow me to provide a reason why we should banish all of this-when will soccer arrive-nonsense before 2017 ends, never to return again.
Perhaps soccer has “arrived” in the United States when a privately financed $34 million soccer specific stadium opens for a second division team in an area that never had an outdoor professional soccer team until two years ago.
The stadium (named H-E-B Park), especially considered in the context of a lower division facility, is stunning. It officially opened, before a sold out crowd, for a match between the RGV FC Toros (a Houston Dynamo USL hybrid affiliate) and C.F. Monterrey of LigaMX on March 22. I traveled down to the Valley to see the stadium for myself a few days later when the Toros opened their USL campaign against San Antonio FC (SAFC). SAFC were happy to put a damper on the celebration by winning 1-0 by the way. Below is a link to my post about the trip which includes pictures, details and a link to an article by Top Drawer Soccer’s Will Parchman, calling the facility the best lower division soccer stadium in the country. One comment I didn’t include in the post. I spoke with an individual who has been involved in soccer for a long time. He said that the stadium smelled of “permanence”, which given the comings and goings of teams in domestic soccer over the years is perhaps the highest compliment.
Despite the clear success of the new stadium opening, RGV FC and the Dynamo still have a few things to work out. The Toros were unable to build on a surprising opening 2016 season where they played on college and practice fields….finishing 2017 out of the playoffs in 11th place with a 9-15-8 record. The Toros also finished the season with the 5th highest reported USL attendance figures (7,067 average) according to the website http://www.kenn.com, which is fantastic for a first year stadium. Unfortunately, H-E-B Park looked empty on many nights. It doesn’t help that the TV views feature the sun side where it must be pretty hot on summer evenings, but Toros management admitted in an end of season Facebook Live stream that slightly less than half of the tickets sold or distributed to sponsors, etc. were actually used. To be fair, this is a problem for most, if not all, professional soccer teams (and other sports too) in Texas, but the problem was particularly acute at H-E-B Park.
Leaving these issues aside, in my mind the opening of a beautiful 9,700 seat soccer specific stadium for a second division team should be celebrated and is the best story to come out 2017 Texas Soccer.
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