English native Roger Faulkner
was the president of the 1994 World Cup Detroit Host Committee when a natural grass surface was laid at the Silverdome and four games attracted average
gates of over 70,000. "Since then, we've seen absolutely nothing," he told Jo-Ann Barnas.
Without a professional team, Michigan soccer is "getting left behind in the
dust," he said. Faulkner talked about countless failed attempts to solicit interest and funds to build a 20,000-capacity soccer-specific stadium in the Detroit area. The chairman of the Premier
Developmental League's Michigan Bucks, Dan Duggan
, said that a few years ago he tried to find an owner for a Michigan Major League Soccer team, visiting "all of the major
players in town. No takers."
But Duggan's not giving up, despite the fact that in that time the cost of an MLS franchise has risen from $3 million to $40 million. In the past
six months he's talked with potential investors from England, Spain and Portugal interested in "branding their product in America," he said. And he has a quick answer to those who say
that with the economy in a tailspin, his mission is hopeless. "Where there are crises," Duggan said, "there are opportunities."
Pointing to the high level of
participation in the state's youth soccer programs, Duggan maintained that "soccer can be a business in Michigan -- not just a sport, not just a hobby. The numbers aren't a fad. We'll
continue to grow."
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