The Santa Ana Sentinel

The World’s Game Needs a Worldly Bunch

Posted in Chivas USA, Opinion, Sports by Omar Ávalos Gallegos on June 10, 2011

Soccer is the world’s game. In 1994, the United States hosted the FIFA World Cup and welcomed, you guessed it, The World. FIFA, the global organizing body of the sport, required the creation of a professional premier soccer league in the U.S. as part of the agreement to allow the U.S. to host the World Cup. This gave rise to Major League Soccer. The league began with modest roots as its inaugural teams played their games in American football stadiums, in areas representing the nation’s capitol (D.C. United) to New England, to L.A. and seven other cities.

Major League Soccer today is a stable and burgeoning professional league that has not even hit its full potential. The league now has eighteen pro teams with Montreal entering in 2012 and a potential second team in New York to follow in the coming years. City after city after city in this country enthusiastically embrace and practice this sport, and gradually each team has built or is in the process of building its own stadium.

The City of Chester in Pennsylvania approved the construction of a stadium, from scratch, to be the home of the Philadelphia Union that joined the league in 2010…

PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. Home of the Philadelphia Union.

Kansas City celebrated the opening of a state of the art facility just yesterday on June 9th, 2011 (also built from scratch)…

Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City

Portland converted a baseball stadium into a soccer-specific stadium for the Portland Timbers. The list goes on and on, Houston broke ground on a soccer-specific stadium slated to open in 2012…

Jeld-Wen Field in Portland

In comes Santa Ana. Is this not the most soccer-supportive and practicing city in Orange County? It depends on who you ask. It depends on whether or not people leave there confines and drive around town to see the abundant pool of young talent playing on any given day, and on what their idea and view of what Santa Ana is. In fact, there are professional clubs that have recognized this talent and have come to tap into it by starting youth academies.

But there is a disconnect or a splintering of neighborhoods within Santa Ana. There is no cohesion when it comes to comprehending that this is a soccer town. Well, not all are on board that is.

Club Deportivo Chivas USA was mentioned as considering a move to Santa Ana. That means that with the club comes all of MLS, nationwide coverage and an elevated profile for the city. But there is, understandably, opposition to a downtown stadium option at Eddie West Field by those who may be most impacted.

Luckily, the city has other areas to build a stadium, it doesn’t have to be at Eddie West but it will take sufficient political will, the kind of will that places like Chester, Portland and Kansas City have to name some. It’s looking more and more like Xerox Centre is the better option because it doesn’t require pushing out the high school and college football teams from Eddie West and cramming their fans into their home campuses. The campuses are not large enough to accommodate the fans.

Suddenly, we’re running out of options.

Here’s to a stadium at Xerox Centre, the area already has a soccer field and the surrounding businesses will get a nice economic booster shot, or somewhere in Santa Ana and to not allowing a big opportunity like this slip away.

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