Due to two recent major milestones, San Antonio is on the fast track to Major League Soccer. At the very least, the large Texas metropolitan area is going to thrust itself into the fray.
Recent votes by the Bexar County Commissioners and the City Counsel for San Antonio have paved the way for those two entities, along with Spurs Sports and Entertainment, to purchase Toyota Field from Gordon Hartman, the current owner of the stadium and its most recent occupants, the San Antonio Scorpions of the North American Soccer League.
In some ways, the purchase is viewed as odd because it does not include the purchase of the Scorpions soccer club, but upon further examination, there appears to be good reason for the omission. The Scorpions have complete their contract with the NASL, but apparently there is a no contest clause – standard for most NASL and USL team agreements – that would require the team to not compete for a season before playing in another league, whether they renew their contact with the NASL or not.
On the other hand, SS&E has had the rights to a USL team in San Antonio for a number of years. As such, there is little value to them to purchase the Scorpions from Hartman, especially considering that the venue will remain the same, and that the buyers SS&E would be looking for are likely easy to find – a simple public message to former Scorpions buyers would probably capture most of the current NASL team’s season ticket holders, and a few select major soccer events would get them the contact information for the rest.
On top of that, it isn’t unreasonable to assume that the local supporters groups will follow on over to the new USL side. In fact, the largest supporters group in Texas, the Crocketteers, predated the team and in some ways similarly to what happened in Philadelphia, had a hand in the development of the Scorpions.
The key thing as it relates to MLS is this – the agreement that the County, City and SS&E held a press conference about earlier this year has clauses that would cause SS&E to take on the majority of the payments for Toyota Field should the team not make it into MLS within specific dates. That appears to really show the direction this project is taking.
Bottom line? Now San Antonio has what recent successful MLS expansion bids have had – a quality stadium and a legitimate owner. Barring SS&E falling down in leading the way with MLS, look for San Antonio to enter MLS – possibly sooner rather than later.