Time for U.S. pro leagues to treat their cornerstones a bit better

With its callous attitude toward Columbus, MLS has already staked out a “thanks for getting us off the ground, now go away” attitude that Don Garber must fix before he either leaves office or renews his contract.

Are we seeing the same thing in pro women’s soccer? It’s complicated. We might not know a complete answer until we know the lineup of teams for 2019.

But it’s not looking good.

We might be able to absolve the NWSL of blame for the fact that 2018 will be the first season of pro women’s soccer in the USA without a team called the Boston Breakers. They weren’t the strongest club in WPS — see general manager Andy Crossley’s dissections of his handiwork for more details on that and yet another reason to add Curt Schilling to your list of the worst human beings in sports. And they never really found a good home ground in the NWSL — Dilboy Stadium was about as “track-and-field-specific” a venue as anyone could find, and Harvard’s Jordan Field was OK but tiny.

So when word spread that the owners were trying to sell, no one could really blame them. We may never know what happened with the new owners who, as of a few days ago, seemed set to buy the club and continue into the new season. Was the league completely blindsided? Or should they have done more to wrap up the deal or reject it in time to let others have a chance? Would the league have a more potent voice if it made up its mind as to whether Amanda Duffy is the interim or permanent commissioner, executive director, CEO or whatever they want to call their leader?

As we know now, others did indeed leap into the fray to try to save the team. I spoke with representatives of three different camps, some of whom are opposed to each other on other issues. They were confident that they had investors with enough money to keep the Breakers running. They were less confident that they had time for everyone to get through due diligence. After missteps of the past — Jeff Cooper’s mysterious money men bailing on St. Louis, Dan Borislow taking the Washington Freedom to Florida and butting heads with authority for a year until the league finally collapsed — “due diligence” is not something that can be skipped.

Whatever happened has happened. The question now: Is there any chance of reviving the Breakers in 2019?

What I’m hearing isn’t positive. Nor is the fact that the NWSL has not responded to my inquiries over the weekend about the Breakers situation, first to get comment on the last-ditch effort to save the team and then to get comment on what happens next.

The answer affects more than just Boston. Like the Crew in Columbus, the Breakers name means something to soccer fans. It’s an original.

And for all the bluster of MLS-affiliated women’s teams being better situated that everyone else, look who had the most extensive youth and reserves operations — the Boston Breakers, along with fellow independent Washington Spirit. (At least the Breakers Academy will continue. FC Kansas City also still has Academy games scheduled, resuming Feb. 10.)

Something dies every time a team folds or moves. MLS has lucked out so far that things have turned out well in the long run, but that streak could end very quickly if the Crew move. And if the NWSL can’t act on the obvious interest to restore the Breakers next year, the league’s credibility will suffer.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Time for U.S. pro leagues to treat their cornerstones a bit better

  1. The crew do not have to move. There are local owners who want to step up and buy the team and really give it the jumpstart it deserves in Columbus. This was a power move by MLS and I can honestly say if they move I will never watch another MLS game and that is not a threat. The league with all of its Bs rules make it feel contrived and fake. This will just be the icing on the cake I need to stop following.

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  2. All of the whining about save the Crew. Fans did not show up to games, period. If you look at footage of playoff games prior to the save the crew screeching, people in Columbus just were not interested. Look at attendance numbers over the years. Again, fans did not attend the games in proper numbers. The only reason they care now is because the team is threatening a move. If the team stays in Columbus, the interest will drop again. MLS needs to grow and needs good cities that support soccer without the threat of leaving. It does not matter if they are an original team. Apply the same logic to American Football and ask yourselves if we need the Canton Bulldogs, Decatur Staleys, Akron Pros, or the beloved Columbus Panhandles around anymore. Leagues evolve, grow up and get over it.

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