Chances are that if you’ve been rooting for any team in North America, it has been threatened with relocation, contraction, or something else that would have taken it away. The idea of this happening to an MLS team isn’t even foreign, being that Chivas USA was contracted only a few years ago and the San Jose Earthquakes were relocated in 2005.
But Anthony Precourt’s threat to move the Columbus Crew feels different. This isn’t just one of the founding members of MLS or even just the first to build a soccer-specific stadium. The Crew aren’t leading any of the business metrics and may lose money, but they are still drawing more than 15,000 people per game, have added a bunch of sponsors over the last few years and by all outside appearances seem perfectly viable, if still having plenty of room for improvement.
So while MLS fans have somewhat come to accept that certain business decisions must be made, Precourt’s desire to move his team to Austin feels almost punitive. At the very least, it’s a message to all fans of MLS teams that as good as they may have it right now, all glory fades. Big crowds dwindle. New stadiums grow old. Dedicated owners don’t stay around forever. Nothing is stopping the Seattle Sounders from becoming the Columbus Crew in 20 years.
MLS fans are quickly starting to realize this, and that’s why Emerald City Supporters — knowing full well that Crew fans created ACES and harassed one of their own — penned this open letter to the current Sounders ownership, a message all MLS leaders need to hear:
This is about Trust, an open letter
To: Adrian Hanauer, Joe Roth, Paul Allen, and Drew Carey, owners of Seattle Sounders Football Club
As Seattleites, we know the devastation of watching a new owner take our team to a new town. They take our players. They take our records. They take our trust.
As Sounders, our club is defined by the relationship between the fans and the players. And we believe, as Brian Schmetzer likes to say, that our coaches and owners are stewards of the Seattle Sounders, entrusted with the care taking of our club.
As Emerald City Supporters, our commitment to this club knows no bounds. We love our city, our colors, our players with fierce intensity and passionate expression. As Emerald City Supporters, we are also very aware that calling a franchise "our club" in a single-entity league is a choice. It’s a choice of trust in you, the owners, and we make that choice every day.
That is why the potential move of an original franchise, which seems to have the support of the league, shakes us.
For us, it’s not about saving that fanbase. We’re writing to you today to save our ideals. That our sport can be different. That soccer in North America can be about more than profit margins and business metrics. It *is* more. Soccer is a fabric made up of players, fans, sponsors, city pride, and national hope, all woven together.
But this move tears at that fabric. And if it is not stopped, it will be the unravelling of our collective trust as fans in the owners of our clubs.
Please deny this move. Trust us. It’s the right thing to do.
Emerald City Supporters