Column: Thanks, AAC
Dear American Athletic Conference,
You made an excellent decision by selecting Morrone Stadium for the 2014 American men's soccer semifinals and championship game.
I can only call it a step up, considering the abomination that was the 2013 finals. No, this has nothing to do with UConn losing in the championship game, but even you, the conference, cannot argue about how awful it was watching the finals at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas last year.
There were 175 people in the crowd for the final between UConn and USF. That is 4.8 percent of the average attendance at UConn home games last season.
UConn is going to enter the season as the favorite to win the conference, and if the Huskies are not playing in the final, something unthinkable happened.
Commissioner Mike Aresco stressed going where the fans are before deciding on the XL Center and Mohegan Sun Arena for next year's basketball tournaments. That can also translate to going where the money is. Single-game tickets for the Big East and American finals over the past few years have been $15, and two-day packages have been $25. Morrone holds 5,100, and if there is a capacity crowd on both days, ticket sales will be between $153,000 and $255,000.
That is not a bad haul, especially when playing in Texas garnered less than $10,000, and that is before paying to play in a Major League Soccer stadium.
In 2011 and 2012, I was at the conference finals, first at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey and then PPL Park in Pennsylvania. The 2011 championship game was attended by 2,178 people, but in such a large stadium, even the Goal Patrol, which brought about 40 people to the game, was unable to create much of an atmosphere.
But playing at Morrone Stadium, it is like you want UConn to win everything next year, don't you?
In my four years at UConn, the Huskies have only lost four times, and only two of those losses were in regulation. Playing at home, with the Goal Patrol behind the opposing goalkeeper making all sorts of noise, gives UConn a huge advantage.
Even after losing so many important players, this should be a big season for UConn, a team that is once again expected to be on the national radar with a chance at winning its first national championship since 2000. It makes sense for you to showcase that team by putting your main event at its stadium in front of a crowd of thousands. At previous championships, the fans were all on one side of the stadium so that the crowd would be apparent on television. Imagine being able to show one of the largest crowds in college soccer (UConn was second in the nation in 2012) and being able to show off that your conference is more than just football and basketball.
So, again, thank you. Thank you for finally deciding that college soccer was worth being noticed. Thank you for deciding to put it in a stadium where it can be showcased on the level it deserves. And I guess I should thank you for giving UConn an automatic home-field advantage.
See you on Nov. 14. It should be a fun weekend.
Follow Tim on Twitter at @Tim_Fontenault
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