SBJ/October 29 - November 4, 2001/Opinion

After triple title time, San Jose wants more

OK, don't anyone start overturning cars, but San Jose has earned its third championship title this year, with the Earthquakes bringing back the Major League Soccer trophy from Columbus.

Now San Jose can place a "City of Champions" designation next to its "Capital of Silicon Valley" label.

The Earthquakes completed San Jose's hat trick Oct. 22 by defeating their archrival, the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-1.

The Bay Area CyberRays of the Women's United Soccer Association and the San Jose Giants of the Class A California League also have championship trophies sitting in their offices.

The Earthquakes' trophy isn't exactly analogous to the Super Bowl, World Series or Stanley Cup championship, mind you, but we residents of the area take what we can get.

Could a fourth pro championship lie ahead?

"No pressure on the Sharks, huh?" says Erik Holland of the San Jose Giants.

The Sharks are a long shot to bring the Stanley Cup to San Jose, but not as long a shot as most soccer experts considered the Earthquakes at the beginning of the year. The Quakes were last in the MLS in 2000.

Further, the CyberRays were in the cellar after five games in the inaugural WUSA season. And don't forget the San Jose Giants finished last in 2000.

So San Jose might also claim the title of "Comeback City."

The Earthquakes' win must be particularly sweet for their fans. The team's former operator, Kraft Sports Group, gave up its option to buy the team and returned it to the league after the Earthquakes missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year. Many hard-core soccer fans blame the New England-based Kraft organization for the Quakes' underperformance.

Things were so bad there were even rumors the MLS would disband the Earthquakes. Then the Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment Group, which operates the San Jose Sharks and Compaq Center as well as the Siebel Classic and Siebel Open, stepped forward to take over operation of the Earthquakes.

The team still has its troubles. Its 11,000-a-game attendance is last in the 12-team MLS, and Spartan Stadium needs a new scoreboard, additional widening and other amenities before it can be considered a top-notch soccer stadium.

The CyberRays averaged about 7,000 fans a game.

With equal footing, the two soccer teams together should be able to find a way to lure area soccer fans to Spartan Stadium. And soccer fans are out there. More than 29,000 mostly Hispanic fans showed up for a Mexican League doubleheader in late August. The Bay Area has so many youth soccer leagues it's tough to find an empty field on weekends.

Does that mean soccer doubleheaders such as the one the MLS' D.C. United and the WUSA's Washington Freedom held last season? Does it mean joint advertising with the CyberRays' Brandi Chastain and the Earthquakes' Landon Donovan holding their league championship trophies?

I don't know — that's the job of advertising guys.

But if San Jose wants to coax a Major League Baseball or National Basketball Association team to the South Bay, we must show we can support multiple teams on a sustained basis.

We've already proved we can win championships.

Andrew F. Hamm writes for the San Jose Business Journal.

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