COLUMN: Detroit doesn't need MLS — the city already has its team
I love Detroit and I love soccer.
But I think the two should mix organically.
Major League Soccer has listed the City of Detroit as a top-five contender to get an expansion team. The league seeks to add four teams by 2022.
However, Detroit doesn't need it.
MLS is an unfinished product looking to grow new roots. The league thinks Detroit is a prime garden plot.
It's already full.
A Detroit MLS team would have to compete with the city's long established professional sports franchises. How can a new team compete with our unhealthy obsession with the Lions, the history of the Red Wings and the budget of the Tigers?
When I think of Detroit sports, names like Matthew Stafford, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Andre Drummond and Dylan Larkin come to my mind. But who will be the headliner on Detroit's soccer team? It will be hard to convince high-caliber MLS players to choose Detroit over larger market destinations like New York or Los Angeles.
Furthermore, Detroit already has its own soccer team. There's no reason to add another one.
Detroit City Football Club, was founded by Detroit residents in 2012. It is a grassroots team that plays in the fourth division of the National Premiere Soccer League. The club is thriving and its fanbase is growing.
It raised $750,000 from its supporters and investors last year and was able to renovate its home field at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck. Local sponsors like the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers Local Marketing Association, Faygo, Henry Ford Health System and M1 Imagining Center publicly support the club. DCFC also has partnerships with Slows Bar BQ, Soccer World, Better Made Snack Foods, Blake’s Hard Cider, The Fowling Warehouse and Stroh’s. Attendance at games averages 5,200 people and hit a season high of 7,410.
DCFC's fanbase is growing because of the franchise's niche atmosphere and culture. Every game, fans do not stop chanting, singing, singing and dancing throughout all 90 minutes. In its short existence, DCFC has cultivated a tradition that provides a sporting experience hard to find elsewhere in the State of Michigan. It's an experience MLS can't create.
The club knows it is nothing without its community and gives back to it as much as possible. By doing this, it has formed bonds with people of all backgrounds within the community.
DCFC's fan-franchise relationship with Detroiters is organic. It happened naturally — not a forced marriage.
The local hype surrounding DCFC must be appealing to MLS. It sees a city with an audience just waiting for an MLS team to be given to it. But that's not the truth.
Detroit does not need MLS. MLS needs Detroit.
But why wait and hope for MLS to come? There’s already a team holding the hearts and minds of the city.