Soccer night in downtown Phoenix

24 02 2012

It looks like this Reto del Sol match, as it is called, will become an annual thing in the Phoenix area, be it at Chase Field or University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, and will involve the New York Red Bulls as long as they keep coming down to Arizona for preseason training.

That’s a good thing. With Major League Soccer teams’ presence prevalent here year after year, playing a match in a big stadium for a crowd of thousands is good for everybody. I have to applaud the Red Bulls for being part of it and credit the Mexican Soccer Federation for agreeing to send a team up from Mexico to be an opponent.

Everyone wins here, save perhaps organizers of the game, who probably lost money this year with a smaller crowd than last year’s Reto del Sol. The Red Bulls get an extra game for their top players to mesh and build off of heading into the MLS season. Pumas UNAM, last night’s other participant, gets to increase its profile and exposure and pay homage to its fans in the U.S., even if they had to fly in from Mexico City for the match and head back out right after.

Mexican teams rule here in Phoenix. The broadcast TV ratings are always higher for Primera Division matches on Spanish-language TV stations than even U.S. national team matches aired on the same day on ESPN. People with close ties to Mexico are loyal to their Mexican clubs. Pumas. Chivas. America. Cruz Azul. Atlas, etc. Those jerseys were spotted in the crowd of 14,597 at a baseball stadium, Chase Field, for Thursday’s match.

The Red Bulls had much less audible support, even though theirs was the only merchandise being sold t the game. That said, defender Rafael Marquez is a celebrity in Mexico and his presence had some Mexican fans wearing his Red Bulls kit.

Let’s be honest, 14,597 people is an acceptable crowd for a soccer match in the U.S. FC Dallas would take it. So would San Jose or New England. Five teams averaged fewer people at 2011 MLS regular season matches  then were at Thursday’s game, and it was just an exhibition.

Which takes us to expanding MLS to Phoenix. Seems so unlikely. A roofed stadium with air conditioning — can we get some tips from the people who want to turn Qatar’s World Cup into a cool zone? — would have to be built if nothing could be worked out with University of Phoenix Stadium. But if you align it with a well-known Mexican club — maybe you have something. Maybe those Mexican fans can cheer for the American version of Pumas or Puebla or Pachuca or Santos Laguna.

I’ll keep dreaming.

 

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25 02 2012
NASR TODAY – Feb 24, 2012 | NASR

[…] Soccer night in downtown Phoenix (Jose Romero, My life of sports, ymas) […]

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