Much of the demise of the North American Soccer League could be blamed on small crowds scattered amongst huge stadiums. I remember gazing around San Diego Stadium in the late 1970s, with 15,000 or so in the stands, and barely hearing the cheer that greeted a goal before the sound dissipated amongst 40,000 empty seats and drifted into the night air. Casual fans didn't get much of a buzz, no matter how good the game itself was, and dragging them back proved to be too difficult. On the other hand, I saw some rather dreadful displays at Spartan Stadium in San Jose, but packed into a 20,000-capacity shoebox, every game rocked and the Earthquakes kept drawing good crowds until the end became inevitable. Led, as usual, by the vision and financial clout of Lamar Hunt, MLS is heading down the right path. A cozier enclave is in the works for Columbus, San Jose is widening its playing surface, and the neophyte Fusion are bound for a 20,000-seater in Ft. Lauderdale instead of the Orange Bowl. Even the MetroStars are considering snubbing the arrogant airheads who run Giants Stadium and can't seem to tolerate the lush, shimmering, green grass the Metros paid millions to cultivate, transport and install. I say dump æem. (Besides, who wants to dance on Jimmy Hoffa's grave?) Perhaps the Revolution can fill enough holes in Foxboro, and D.C. United can keep RFK bouncing, but MLS will probably have to vacate cavernous locales like Mile High Stadium, the Cotton Bowl and Arrowhead Stadium if it expects the Western Conference's three non-California teams to flourish. It will cost lots of money, but these are the kinds of projects that can win approval in many communities. bySoccer America Senior EditorRidge Mahoney
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