ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s been a longtime question for New Mexico sports fans as to whether or not the state can support a major league, professional sports.
Looking at the big five professional sports leagues, the latest economic study has good things to say for at least one sport. The study found that Major League Soccer, or MLS has the best shot in the Albuquerque-metro area.
Looking at video online, it’s clear, rapid crowds for MLS soccer are growing throughout the U.S. from Portland to New York City. So could those crowds could find a home in Albuquerque?
“Oh yeah!” said Ron Patel, president of the Albuquerque Sol Futbol Club.
Patel hopes so, and he’s found new support in the new study from the online magazine company “American Cities Businesses Journals” (ACBJ.)
“This validated everything we said that soccer is at home here in New Mexico, it is the sport for people here in New Mexico,” said Patel.
ACBJ’s study ranked Albuquerque the 60th largest out of 83 sports markets in the United States. Looking at population and income data from the Federal Government, the online magazine says Albuquerque could afford the lower ticket prices and the lower cost of landing a major league soccer team, compared to the higher costs from professional football or baseball.
“The tide is turning now, everything is changing,” said Patel.
Patel is president of the Albuquerque Sol premier development soccer team. The team launched in late 2013 as part of the USL Premiere Development League. According to Patel, the USL PDL is the “double-A” equivalent for soccer.
“Our goal the whole the whole time since we started a year and half ago, has been to make a bid for MLS somewhere between 2022 and 2024,” said Patel.
Last year, the Sol team drew about a 1,000 people to each of their games at St. Pius. Patel says he’s not worried about the crowds.
“The sport of soccer is going to continue to grow,” said Patel.
He says the biggest hurdle is building an 18 to 20 thousand seat soccer stadium.
Democratic Representative Moe Maestas asked the state to study the idea through a House Memorial that passed in the 2014 legislative session. He says the memorial got some traction by starting a conversation about bringing big soccer to ABQ.
“It’s going to have to come from the private sector but it is going to take governmental leadership,” said Rep. Maestas.
Most people told News 13 on Friday afternoon that they’d like to see it happen.
“I think would be really fun to go,” said Brian Flores, a lifelong Albuquerque resident and soccer fan.
“Yes I’d go and support it,” said Joseph Chavez.
“I might go to an NFL game,” said Sam Moreman.
“I’d totally support a pro-soccer team,” said Catherine Hudson.
While the study says Albuquerque could support an MLS team, it says Albuquerque would still be one of the smallest professional sports markets in the U.S.
The study ranked NBA pro-basketball as the second most viable sports franchise possible for New Mexico, however the study said the sport was still borderline on its survival in the state.
The Albuquerque Sol says their dream is to build a soccer stadium downtown, however, they say so far the plan is not on anyone’s immediate radar.