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Houston Dynamo accepting refundable deposits for potential NWSL expansion team, and why it’s a no-brainer for the league

Nov 21, 2013, 7:04 PM EDT

Houston Dynamo

Late last fall, U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati revealed the then-debuting National Women’s Soccer League was unlikely to expand for the 2014 season. The same eight teams which began the latest attempt at North American women’s professional soccer would continue carrying the torch in year two. With rumored interest from multiple Major League Soccer teams having persisted throughout the season, the decision was looked at by some as a missed opportunity, by most as opting toward stability. Regardless, the issue was thought to be settled, for now.

But that ‘now’ lasted far shorter than expected thanks to Chris Canetti, the president of MLS’s Houston Dynamo. This week, Canetti confirmed Houston’s interest in emulating the Portland Timbers and starting a sister team in the NWSL. Today, the Dynamo executive took another step, taking to his Twitter account to announce the team was ready to start gauging interest:

Canetti went on to say the deposit is only $25 per ticket, the team presumed to be playing at BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the Dynamo. The league’s ninth franchise would also be its most southern geographically, with the league’s only other team outside the country’s northern half being FC Kansas City.

But what of Gulati’s declaration about expansion? The league’s stance now seems to be a never say never policy. If an opportunity like Houston came up — a stable organization that presents a unique opportunity to add another MLS partner — why would you say no? Portland was by far and away the league’s most successful franchise last season (not only winning the league title but drawing 13,320 per game), largely because they were able to build on the foundation laid by the Timbers. Who wouldn’t want another team that could utilize that recipe?

Of course, that’s what people were asking last season. The general response: Stability was more important, a view that didn’t quite make sense. If the goal is to establish a league that can survive the dreaded three-year curse (WUSA and WPS never playing a fourth season), why wouldn’t you want a partner that’s unlike to fold any time soon? Whereas multiple NWSL teams are struggling to prove their semi-pro viability can translate to professional stability, a organization like the Dynamo would strengthen the ranks. More teams with a better chance at long-term survival shouldn’t be ignored in favor of year-to-year consistency.

There are a number of players overseas looking for opportunities at home, whether you’re talking about U.S. national team-caliber players like Christen Press or Meghan Klingenberg or the myriad journey-women players hopping around, trying to make a living. With the popularity of women’s college soccer, the NCAA ranks are producing enough players to stock these teams. And with a lower salary base augmented by subsidies from U.S. and Canadian soccer, it’s not hard to take a franchise from zero to playing in a few months times.

At one point, though, those subsidies are going to go away. It may happen after the 2016 Summer Olympics. Right now, this league wouldn’t survive without the federations paying for each squad’s best talent. If there were more teams like the Portland Thorns, however, the NWSL would have a better chance at survival come 2017.

The big question is whether Houston would be in it for the long run, but that’s what this test is about. If the Dynamo get enough commitments to mitigate the costs of running the team, it sounds like they’ll push forward. We’ll get a chance to see if Texas is truly ready for women’s professional soccer.

And if the response is light? The NWSL gets that low-risk, low-reward consistency people seemed to want.

  1. player169 - Nov 21, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    I think Houston should try to fill it’s stadium for the men’s team, before worrying about a women’s team. Just a thought. Leg 1 of eastern conference championship was 50% full. Wednesday night, sure, but really????

    • dd77dd - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:44 PM

      Dynamo have the 6th best attendance in MLS. Also the 1st game of the Eastern Conference Finals was on a Saturday and a sellout.

  2. hildezero - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    Exactly! That’s what I’ve been saying all this time. Houston is an embarrassment.

  3. tylerbetts - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Partnering Women’s clubs with MLS clubs is just a logical, natural step. It’s a good way for the NWSL to achieve long-term stability. It’s a good way for MLS clubs with good stadium situations to fill up dates in their stadium. I’d like to see more MLS clubs do this.

  4. kernelthai - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    My question is what sort of attendance number does Houston need to make this work? If they can do this averaging say 7K then by all means but if they need to get Portland numbers to make this work then I think they r in for a sad surprise.

    • Richard Farley - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      That’s a great question/point. LIke Portland, Houston controls their facility, and thanks to the federation subsidies and the salary cap, the financial risk is ridiculously low, especially for a team that already has a large, established client base. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be surprised if it needs to even be 7K for them to make money on the deal.

  5. player169 - Nov 22, 2013 at 7:39 AM

    My mistake, Saturday….even worse. The stands were half empty though and if it was sold out then the fans still suck as a whole, because they had a ticket but didn’t show up. You can’t argue with all the empty seats. My guess is there must be a ton of corporate seats down there explaining why the tickets were sold…then the businesses couldn’t even give them away. If you don’t have people wanting “free” tickets to a championship level game then I again pose the question…How will you support a women’s team? Guess, I answered my own question – corporate seats…tax right offs for them most likely…

    • geojock - Nov 22, 2013 at 9:06 AM

      They had a Thursday night then Sunday night game. The Thursday game is the one you were thinking of. The issues are well documented on this site. But i would think you would figure these things out before you start opening your mouth.
      As for Dynamo, there attendance is good, but not top tier. Look at historic playoff numbers and you will see that this year was an exception, not the rule.

      2006 20,274
      2007 30,530
      2008 30,053
      2009 27,465
      2010 DNQ
      2011 24,749
      2012 21,395
      Those attendance numbers are only 2nd to Seattle.

  6. player169 - Nov 22, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Geojock: No, Houston played a Wednesday and Saturday game…if you are going to nitpick and open your mouth. I am a KC fan and watched KC play Houston, so I’m not confused. I’m sure the Wednesday through the gate numbers wasn’t any better. Quote all the numbers you want…Seattle sells out AND puts butts in the seats. If Houston is “Selling out”…the people aren’t showing. Most likely this is due to corporate sales tickets that aren’t being used. If you are a Houston fan, I’m not trying to diss those that show…just calling it like I see it.

    I’ll be at the game on Saturday driving down from Illinois with Standing room only tickets. If KC has corporate ticket no shows I’m sure there will be plenty if fans to fill them…including me.

    P.s – KC has a women’s team and you couldn’t pay me to go watch it even if I lived there…

  7. NANA OSEI KOFI ABIRI (@NOKA88) - Nov 29, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    Reblogged this on foetbal247.

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