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"Small Market" Preseason Watching Blues

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The San Jose Earthquakes take pride in being a “Blue Collar” team, one of the true underdogs in Major League Soccer; and as much as the fans try to grow the market in the Bay Area, it always seems like it is a losing battle.

Bay Area media outlets don’t like to admit that San Jose Earthquakes exist or that anyone can like the game called soccer.  You go to KPIX, KTVU, KRON, or ABC7’s websites and check under sports and you see the links to 49ers, Raiders, A’s, Giants, Sharks, Warriors, Stanford, and Cal but never to the San Jose Earthquakes. When CSN Bay Area launched their mobile app for phones saying it covered all the Bay Area teams, sadly again the Quakes were missing off the application under ‘favorite teams’.  This is the same CSN that is showing every Quakes game during the season on TV, so one would think that they would know that the Boys in Blue and Black exist as a team.  Even sports radio isn’t immune to dissing the Quakes, luckily KNBR & 95.7 The Game, the latter which is partially owned by San Jose Earthquakes’ owner Lew Wolff, both have one person who knows about Earthquakes -- and yet they are told that they can mention them in one liner news cycles but that they shouldn’t get any decent air time because “that’s not what people want to listen or discuss”.  Even at the Chronicles’ website SFGate.com, the mention of San Jose Earthquakes is literally on the Bay Area Earthquakes page about the ground shaking and not because Chris Wondolowski scored another impressive goal.

So when the media sources aren’t giving love to the San Jose Earthquakes, what is a team to do? Last year, the Quakes made it known that they have given up on trying to woo the standard, traditional media and that they are focusing on the social media to grow the brand and the game. If that is true, why is it that during the preseason matches Bay Area fans are forced to following Sporting Kansas City, FC Tucson, and Houston Dynamo’s twitter feeds to get play by play action during preseason games? When MLS announced that they are going to be streaming games live either on ESPN3 or MLSSoccer.com or even some of the clubs sites like DCUnited.com or PortlandTimbers.com, only two of those games include San Jose, of which the video against Colorado didn’t work and the other is because they are playing Timbers who will be streaming all their own games in the Portland Tournament next week.

Early in the preseason, the Quakes were asked if they would be streaming content from their own games and the response given is that they do not travel around with a videographer during the preseason, so they can’t stream any of the matches. When asked about live tweeting play by plays during a game, again it was made known that they don’t have anyone who can do that in addition to their regular tasks but would be sure to get the lineups and any goals that are scored via the Earthquakes official twitter handle.

So what needs to happen for the club to be taken seriously in MLS, as well as in the Bay Area?  Back in 2009 and 2010, the San Jose Earthquakes had a few preseason games at Buck Shaw where they invited the fans for free. It was a fun way to introduce friends, co-workers and family members to the San Jose Earthquakes and show them what they can see all year as a season ticket holder. Curiously, these past two years, the Quakes have strayed away from those types of exhibition games, opting for more road trips and playing where the fans can’t watch or hear the action from their own team.

Something seems wrong when Quakes’ diehards feel that they need to go to the opposing clubs’ presidents or twitter handles to ask if they could stream (via video or audio) the preseason matches on their site, since San Jose doesn’t seem to have the budget to grow their fan base through these outlets.  As for this week’s tournament in Portland, San Jose Earthquakes’ President David Kaval has said that he is working on a solution with the Portland Timbers to also stream the San Jose game against AIK so the Boys in Blue and Black don’t stay lumped in with Chivas USA as a minor league club trying to play in an ever advancing major league world.

The Faithful can only hope that with the construction of their own soccer specific stadium over the next two years, it will push the team into the local media’s eye and give the Quakes’ Front Office the incentive to change the mindset of naysayers and find creative ways to transition into a true major league market.