San Antonio to get MLS taste

[MLS WATCH] Twas a time San Antonio occasionally popped up on the radar screen of possible MLS expansion sites, as an ambitious mayor tried to broker a partnership with Mexican club Monterrey.

Those efforts faded when Ed Garza left office in 2005, yet there will be MLS soccer in San Antonio this spring. A four-team competition, the Texas Pro Soccer Festival, will feature three doubleheaders in Cicolo, located just northeast of the city, March 5-9.

Four-time champion D.C. United and defending champ Houston will be joined by Chivas USA and Toronto FC for round-robin play that, falling just three weeks before the start of the regular season, should show some glimmers of how the teams are shaping up. D.C. has revamped its team and added Marcelo Gallardo as a Designated Player. Houston is seeking replacements for Nate Jaqua and Joseph Ngwenya, two of its top three goalscorers last year.

Last year, D.C. United posted the best regular-season record but Chicago knocked it out of the playoffs in the first round; Chivas USA topped the Western Conference, but was eliminated by Houston on the Dynamo's run to a second straight championship. Toronto won just six of 30 games in its expansion season while attracting sellout crowds to BMO Field.

The teams will practice at the Soccer International facility, a 12-field complex funded and developed by the non-profit San Antonio Metropolitan Youth Soccer Institute (SAMYS), which was formed 10 years ago to assist the growth of the game.

The event is organized in conjunction with SAMYS and Ziga-Zoga Sports & Entertainment, Inc. Proceeds will be donated to SAMYS, the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City Independent School District soccer program and other national and local charities.

Tickets can be ordered on-line at www.texasprosoccerfest.com. starting Friday. Title sponsor Touch-Tel, a telephone card company, is based in Houston, whose fans are known to travel, and travel well. Driving time from Houston to San Antonio is about 3 1/2 hours.
Game schedule:
March 5 --
Chivas USA vs. Toronto FC, 6 p.m.; Houston vs. D.C. United, 8:30 p.m.
March 7 -- Toronto FC vs. D.C. United, 6 p.m.; Chivas USA vs. Houston, 8:30 p.m.
March 9 -- D.C. United vs. Chivas USA,1:30 p.m.; Houston vs. Toronto FC, 4 p.m.
In March 2004, Colorado and the MetroStars played to a 2-2 tie before 4,204 spectators in San Antonio at the Blossom Soccer Stadium, which hosted the Big 12 women's soccer tournament last November.

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