Our resident optimist Matt Baker is back with with another well researched piece on where MLS4theLou sits in comparison to the other recent MLS teams. Quite the perspective that many haven’t taken into consideration. -Mitch
Having an MLS team awarded to St. Louis was a celebratory moment for soccer and St. Louis in general. But with an MLS team awarded to St. Louis 2 years and 6 months before taking the pitch, there leaves a lot of time to build a stadium, put together a front office, make decisions about soccer operations, overall infrastructure, and eventually begin signing players. We have a very rabid fanbase in St. Louis. We have a great team to currently support in Saint Louis FC. When you have those two things and you have such a large runway, there is going to be anxiety about the process and questions that we all want quick answers on. While pieces are put into place, and our stadium build process jumps ahead of Nashville’s already, I wanted to look at a subject near and dear to our hopes and fears – soccer operations. While our runway is large, and there remains anxiety with the future of our current squad as they enter their 2020 season, I wanted to compare other MLS expansion teams starting in 2020 and beyond, and how we are stacking up to the timeframe of their hires in key technical positions.
I didn’t take too deep of a dive into FC Cincinnati. I don’t think you’ll get much argument that they’re not a model to look at for moving to MLS. They had a 9-month runway from announcement to taking the pitch and their first season record reflected that. They moved from USL to MLS and used their USL team’s President and GM to fill that same role in MLS. Less than 3 months into their inaugural season, they hired a new GM. Suffice to say, they’re the cautionary tale.
From there, we move to 2020 with Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC. Inter Miami have their own nuances, namely David Beckham and his contractually obligated MLS expansion ability from his initial MLS contract, and his longstanding attempt to get a team together. IMCF was eventually awarded a team on 1/29/18, while Nashville was awarded their team a month prior, on 12/20/17. NSC’s owners were involved with their USL side and moved their team from USL to MLS.
Then we look at 2021, with Austin FC and Charlotte’s yet-to-be-named-MLS squad. Austin is another nuanced team, as their owner/CEO Anthony Precourt already had a stake in MLS as the Columbus Crew owner and attempted to move the Crew to Austin. MLS worked a deal to allow Precourt to jump ahead of other expansion cities to start a new team in Austin, while the Crew remained in Columbus when local ownership stepped up. Charlotte’s bid is wholly new, unrelated at all, to the USL’s Charlotte Independence.
With this background in mind, I’ve put together a table with the key soccer operations people for these teams, when they were hired, when their team will start, and when their team was announced. I listed approximately how long they hired the person compared to when their team starts and extrapolated when our #MLS4THELOU group would need to hire, to match that effort. The overall goal is to give a good idea of where we stack up in comparison to other teams hires and the time they have to build their squad and structure. This isn’t necessarily to say we’re ahead or behind other expansion teams, just gives a point of reference. And while the comparisons are good to keep in mind now, you need to hire the right people for the jobs to be successful long term. Ultimately, it all starts with the Sporting Director (GM for NSC) on the technical side. It’s going to be the big splash that #MLS4THELOU needs to make to kick our soccer operations off.