Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are known worldwide as places
of visionary entrepreneurs who have one eye on the present
and one eye on the future, recognizing that the path that lies
between the two is one of opportunity. The ability to recognize
this path sooner than anyone else has shown itself time and
again to be a key to success.
At Soccer Silicon Valley, we see soccer in much
the same way that a venture capitalist might see an emerging technology.
By examining the past and evaluating the present, it's possible
to see soccer's potential, both in its value to a community and
as an investment.
Pundits will note that soccer has been touted as "the
sport of the future" in the U.S. for nearly 30 years, ever
since Pelé signed with the New York Cosmos in 1975. Similarly,
they will point to the demise of the North American Soccer League
as a sign that Major League Soccer will also fail.
Team star Landon Donovan is a prime example of soccer's growth
in this country. He was just 14 when MLS debuted in 1996.
What the pundits don't know about is soccer's incremental
growth over those 30 years. The children who grew up watching
the NASL went on to become the players that took the United States
to the World Cup in 1990 as our country made our first appearance
in the tournament in 40 years. Our success then helped the U.S.
win the right to host the 1994 World Cup, the most successful
tournament in the competition's history. The stars from the 1994
team, men like Eric Wynalda and Alexi Lalas, became the foundation
for Major League Soccer (MLS), which held its inaugural game in
San Jose in 1996.
Soccer's continuing trend of growth in America has
been greatly enhanced by MLS. Bruce Arena coached DC United to championships
in the league's first two seasons and was hired to coach the U.S.
National Team after the 1998 World Cup. His first game as the U.S.
boss was held in San Jose in November, 1998, and he has gone on
to become the most successful coach in American history, leading
the team to a third place finish in the 1999 Confederations Cup
and a quarterfinal finish in the 2002 World Cup. The 2002 World
Cup also served notice that players from MLS could compete on the
biggest stage, as MLS stars like the Earthquakes' Landon Donovan
showed their class.
Soccer's growth has been reflected off the field
as well. 1999 saw the opening of Columbus Crew Stadium, the first
soccer-specific stadium in the country. That was followed by the
Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., a $150 million complex which
includes a training center for U.S. Soccer as well as facilities
for tennis, track and field, cycling, volleyball, baseball, softball,
basketball, and other sports. Stadiums
are also either approved or under construction in Chicago, Dallas,
and Harrison, NJ, and noted stadium architects HOK — designers
of SBC Park in San Francisco — are working on plans
for a newly-announced stadium in Denver.
The sport continues to be incredibly popular
among participants as well. A study conducted in 2000 by the Soccer
Industry Council of America (SICA), a committee of the Sporting
Goods Manufacturers Association, showed 18,176,000 participants
nationwide, a higher number than football, baseball, softball,
or hockey. The SICA report showed California with 2,154,000 players,
the highest total in the nation. The number of young adults playing
high school soccer increased almost 73 percent from 1989 to 1999,
from 321,964 to 556,171, a trend that has continued in the new
century as shown in a 2003 study by the National Federation of
State High School Associations which recorded 646,606 students
playing high school soccer nationwide.
If you're interested in more information about the
sport's present and future, we invite you to explore this Preliminary
Market Analysis and Facility Review presented by Craig Skiem
of Convention, Sports, & Leisure International (CS&L) to
the San Jose Sports Facility Task Force. (Adobe
Acrobat required.) It covers topics such as MLS fan demographics,
San Jose market information, an MLS attendance analysis, and information
about MLS facilities development.
The data is clear. The sustained incremental growth
of the sport over the last three decades has established a solid
foundation on which to build. At Soccer Silicon Valley, we believe
that an investment in soccer is a wise one.