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Houston expansion talk heats up with ticket deposits

The Houston Dynamo look to be pushing for an NWSL team in 2014.

Things are getting real in Houston as Dynamo president Chris Canetti has asked for $25 season ticket deposits to gauge interest in a potential National Women’s Soccer League team.

This comes within 48 hours of Canetti’s comments that the Dynamo are interested in a women’s team to complement their MLS club at BBVA Compass Stadium, and revelations that the club has been in talk with the league since September.

On Tuesday, a league source told The Equalizer “never say never” on Houston entering the league in 2014, one year ahead of planned expansion. A second source said it wouldn’t be impossible. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati had previously stated the league would not expand next year.

The WPSL’s Houston Aces have previously been the focal point of the Houston market and they have publicly stated their intent to join the top flight in 2015. Thursday a separate source said that multiple scenarios could involve the Aces, who are involved in talks.

Houston fans will have to respond quickly to show they are interested. The Dynamo are taking season deposits to gauge interest until 5 p.m. CT on Monday. Season ticket prices “would average $178.” The team put out a survey on Tuesday to get a feel for initial interest.

Signs had pointed to the New York Red Bulls and Sky Blue FC partnering as the next MLS/NWSL club (Portland is currently the only such situation), but that deal recently fell through.

The Houston Aces are not totally out of the picture and could be part of several scenarios involving a Houston NWSL team.

If this all seems like a quick timeline,  it should. But keep in mind that today, Nov. 21, 2013, marks the one-year anniversary of the NWSL’s announcement. One year ago today is when everything went official — publicly, anyway. So this timeline isn’t unprecedented, even if it seems a little crazy. And while the NWSL had its issues in Year 1, it’s still standing today.

And Houston has been in talks with the league for some two months, so they didn’t just go from zero-to-60 in a few days. Remember how the Western New York Flash entered Women’s Professional Soccer? It was mid-July 2010 when I spoke with the Flash and reported their ambitions to jump up from the semi-pro USL W-League to WPS. I distinctly remember that folks at the league weren’t even yet aware of the Flash’s desires.

Flash owner Joe Sahlen chatted with league brass later that week, then started touring some stadiums at WPS games in August and by mid-September, Western New York were part of the top flight. Western New York has been a staple of women’s pro soccer since. The infrastructure was there. The desire was there. And although the timeline was seemingly tight — maybe even crazy — it ended up being part of what saved WPS for 2011.

People point to Dan Borislow’s purchase of the Washington Freedom (and eventual renaming to magicJack) as what extended WPS into 2011, but without Sahlen buying in two months earlier, Borislow’s purchase becomes irrelevant and the league folds, since FC Gold Pride went under in November 2010, two months after winning a championship.

So WPS was in a more dire situation when the Flash came around, but there’s a precedent.

And as the Dynamo go, the infrastructure of a stadium, staff and brand — the MLS brand, anyway — are already in place. This wouldn’t be out of thin air. Portland shouldn’t be looked at as the expectation for an MLS team entering the NWSL; the support there is an anomaly. But it’s proof that having these sort of things being in place ahead of time can go a long way in starting smoothly, even on short notice.


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