March 29, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Local soccer enthusiasts emitted a collective groan last December when, after months of speculation, the San Jose Earthquakes were relocated by its owner and Major League Soccer to Houston.
Despite the area's reputation as a soccer hotbed with many of the country's top youth club and college teams residing in the South Bay, Anschutz Entertainment Group stated that since 1996 the Earthquakes were never in a position to be financially viable. More than $50 million was invested in the team since its inception, including $20 million by AEG.
Going back to the days of the North American Soccer League, the Earthquakes had a storied history and passionate fan base. Many of the club's players had local ties and those who didn't worked hard to integrate into the community.
MLS has affirmed its intention to return the two-time league champion Earthquakes back to the Bay Area with a new expansion team as early as 2007.
In the meantime, however, all is not lost for area soccer fans.
Arguably the top combined Division I college soccer program in the nation resides within the borders of our fine city. The Santa Clara University men's and women's teams have each won a national championship and routinely advance deep into the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the Bronco women currently own the longest active streak of NCAA quarterfinal appearances of any program in the country.
The Bronco men have had eight players taken in the MLS draft in the last eight years and three selected in the first round. In January, Mehdi Ballouchy was the second overall selection in the MLS SuperDraft. A few days later, SCU senior Hector Guzman was selected by Houston in the league's supplemental draft.
Santa Clara has appeared in five NCAA College Cups (college soccer's version of the Final Four) and names such as former U.S. National Team coach Steve Sampson, 1992 U.S. Olympic Team captain and current head coach Cameron Rast and former MLS star Jeff Baicher appear in the Bronco record books.
Before the suspension of the Women's United Soccer Association in September of 2003, Santa Clara had the distinction of placing at least one former Bronco on each of the league's 14 teams. No other school could make that claim.
With the recent opening of Stephen Schott Baseball Stadium on the SCU campus, the Bronco soccer teams will have their first-ever opportunity to play their spring games at historic Buck Shaw Stadium. In the past, the soccer programs were forced to train on the school's intramural fields during the spring and play the majority of its matches away from campus in order to allow the field to be transformed into a diamond for the baseball team.
Now that the teams have Buck Shaw Stadium available year-round, the Broncos have scheduled several opportunities for local soccer fans to come out and watch the next generation of professional superstars in action.
The men's team plays the first of four open intra-squad scrimmages on April 8 and will host matches against Sacramento State and Cal State Stanislaus on April 29 and Cal Poly on May 13. The Bronco women will host the Sacramento Storm of the professional Women's Premier Soccer League on May 6 and Stanford University on May 25.
Professional soccer may have left the South Bay for a while. But, the next generation stars are right here in our own backyard.
With free admission to all spring matches, pack a lunch and bring the kids out to Buck Shaw Stadium and support Santa Clara soccer this spring. For a complete schedule, click here.