I posted the full story over at Center Line Soccer, but wanted to follow up with a few thoughts of my own on the Earthquakes ceding their right to host an upcoming MLS qualifier for the U.S. Open Cup. The lowdown: due to some difficulties in finding a suitable venue to host the match during the first week in May — a week where the Quakes have some flexibility when it comes to their MLS schedule — Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field will play host to the match on May 3rd with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. The Quakes regular home venue of Buck Shaw Stadium was unavailable due to prior scheduled events, so the team decided it would be easier to go out on the road.
In my conversation with Earthquakes President David Kaval, he candidly revealed some of the difficulties in finding a proper venue in the Bay Area to host the May 3rd game. What he didn’t say directly was that the organization is hampered by having to play tenant to the Buck’s owner, Santa Clara University, and their control over the facility. When the Quakes play, or even practice, at the University’s stadium, they pay a rental fee that obviously counts against any revenue they generate. If the Quakes were to have their own stadium, then those rental costs won’t affect the financial bottom line.
Another consideration in relinquishing the rights to the U.S. Open Cup Portland match comes when you look at the reality of the potential ticket revenue to the team. In very few markets are these tournament games captivating the local audience enough for them to come out in sufficient numbers to justify the expense of hosting the match. In the past two seasons, the Quakes have required season tickets holders to use one of their two “Bonus” tickets to attend that year’s U.S. Open Cup match, which at least guarantees a gate equal to no less than the number of season ticket accounts. With an MLS-low STH base estimated at 3000, and at the risk of drawing the ire of those fans by not providing a more compelling “Bonus” game, it is not entirely worth the frustration of hosting these still low-profile matches. Perhaps with their own stadium in place, the financial pendulum swings more in the team’s favor, and hosting more matches outside of the MLS schedule would be advantageous.
Kaval did assures me when I pressed him that if the Earthquakes win on the road against the Timbers on May 3rd the team is prepared to host the next round match against the Chicago Fire. This actually makes a lot more sense from a financially and marketing point-of-view. The winner of that potential MLS third-round qualifier gains entry into the tournament proper in the round of sixteen. I imagine it will be a much better sell to STH’s and the public at large that the Earthquakes are playing a win-and-your-in U.S. Open Cup match than just an early round qualifier. As a season ticket holder myself, I would prefer to see both games live at Buck Shaw Stadium, but if given a choice by the team — one influenced by their economic reality — I’d gladly settle for my “Bonus A” ticket applying to the match against the Fire.
After all, I am saving my “Bonus B” ticket for that highly desired friendly with Tottenham Hotspur I hope the team schedules for sometime this summer.