Whether or not the National Women’s Soccer League is in Houston in 2014 should be known in the next week, and the decision is in the Houston Dynamo’s hands.
The Dynamo publicly revealed their interest in a top-flight women’s league last week and activated a season-ticket pre-sale — despite a team not existing — through Monday evening. Results fell short of what Dynamo president Chris Canetti admitted were “probably unreasonable” expectations, but the feedback was positive enough that the Dynamo see potential for the NWSL in Houston.
“I had a number in mind that would have told me this would have been a slam dunk,” Canetti told The Equalizer Monday by phone from Pittsburgh, where he was announcing the Dynamo’s affiliation with USL-PRO team Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
“We put up a number that gave us food for thought.”
Canetti would not give specifics of the results, but said the number of $25 refundable deposits received through Monday night was about one-third of the aforementioned “slam dunk” number. The Dynamo have 12,000 individual season ticket holders on 3,500 accounts, and a survey distributed to them provided results that nearly half of those who responded said they would buy women’s season tickets, quoted at averaging $178 per seat.
“My belief is that how we do on season tickets is going to prove the viability of the business model,” Canetti said.
The next step for Houston is for Canetti and the Dynamo’s three owners to discuss the viability of a women’s team over the next 48 hours, Canetti said Monday night. Canetti said that will be his first formal presentation of the plan to the owners, but that the “ball is in our court” as the league awaits word.
NWSL executive director Cheryl Bailey confirmed negotiations with Houston to Soccer By Ives. The Equalizer did not immediately hear back on a request for comment late Monday night.
Canetti first gained interest in and began researching a NWSL team “several months” ago, with a particular emphasis on investigating the on- and off-field success of 2013 champion Portland Thorns FC, currently the only NWSL team owned by a MLS team. That included conversations with Thorns and Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, who recently voiced public support of the Dynamo’s endeavors:
@ChrisCanetti i would like to register a strong vote of support for you guys doing nwsl. Will even buy season tix!
— Merritt Paulson (@MerrittPaulson) November 21, 2013
For Houston, the ultimate goal is about growing the Dynamo brand. At its most basic, a women’s team would have to prove to be two things, Canetti said: Economically viable and not having a negative impact on the Dynamo.
Houston’s WPSL team, the Houston Aces, were contacted, Canetti said, but he is awaiting response and is unsure how the Aces would fit into the plan. Canetti recognized the Aces’ involvement in the community, but made it clear a Houston women’s team would be owned and operated by the Dynamo and playing at BBVA Compass stadium, the downtown stadium the club opened in May 2012.
The Aces issued a statement to The Equalizer that they are not currently part of the Dynamo’s plans.
A 2014 timeline to get Houston into the NWSL is tight, but not unprecedented. It was Nov. 21, 2012 that the league itself and the eight founding teams involved were officially unveiled to the public, giving them just over four months to get everything in place. Should the Dynamo move forward with a team for 2014, they would have the same timeline, but with a 65-person front office already in place from the MLS team.
“We have enough structure, resources and assets in the picture that if they give us a team now I don’t want to wait until 2015,” Canetti said.
“But if they say 2015, we’ll wait.”
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