Cullen’s Column: It’s time for Robert Kraft to sell the New England Revolution

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Photo courtesy of @NeRevs Twitter

By Cullen McIntyre, Sports Editor

Major League Soccer is enjoying their highest rate of growth in viewership and fanbases, but the team that competes in the Eastern Conference of the MLS from New England is not. The New England Revolution have been in the MLS since the beginning, when the league was formed in 1993 and competed in the first season in 1996.

Owner Robert Kraft has been there since the beginning and the team has not enjoyed anything close to the successes of Kraft’s National Football League team, the New England Patriots. In their 23-year history, the Revolution have not won a single MLS Cup, but have appeared in five finals in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2014. The team’s only trophies are the 2007 U.S. Open Cup, where the Revolution beat FC Dallas 3-2 in the final. Their other trophy was the 2008 North American SuperLiga, when the Revs won 6-5 on penalties over the Houston Dynamo. The team has also never won an MLS Supporters’ Shield and came the closest in 2005 when finishing in second place.

The current era of Major League Soccer is growth and a large intake of money. Clubs across the country are spending big to get big names to their teams, with examples of Los Angeles Galaxy bringing in Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, D.C. United signing English legend Wayne Rooney, or expansion team Los Angeles F.C. bringing in Mexican international Carlos Vela as their first signing.

While other teams are willing to spend, the Revolution are extremely hesitant with spending money for big name talent. This season, the largest spend on a player is $13.2 million by Atlanta United for Argentinian winger Gonzalo Martinez, while the Revolution’s largest spend this season on a player is $1.5 million for Spanish midfielder Carles Gil, who is also the team’s only purchase this season.
With money not being spent, the quality of the team is lacking against the competition they face in the MLS. It took the Revolution five games to grab their first win of the season, drawing one and losing three straight before beating Minnesota United 2-1 at home on Saturday, March 30. One of the losses included a 2-0 home loss to new expansion team FC Cincinnati in the team’s fourth MLS game.

The lack in competition has led to a small showing at the Revolutions home stadium, also home to the Patriots, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The team ranks 19th (three teams have yet to play a game at home) in total home attendance at 35,070 after three home games, with the highest being Atlanta United at 113,003 after two home games. New England’s dedicated fanbase that sits behind the goal in “The Fort” every home game fills their section weekly, but the seats throughout the rest of Gillette look barren game after game. The Revs average attendance in 2018 was 18,347 per game, compared to the Patriots average 65,878 in their last season, selling out every single home game.

There are too many issues to name for New England’s soccer team at the moment, but ownership sticks out at the top. Kraft Ownership Group has not put enough funds into the Revolution for them to succeed and it shows not only on the pitch, but off. The team is without a soccer specific stadium and is one of the few MLS teams without one. Eastern Conference rival Columbus Crew is in the process of building their second soccer specific stadium in Columbus, Ohio, while the Revolution continues to play at Gillette. With the extreme success the Patriots have had under Kraft, there has been no reason for the 77 year-old to pour money into his consistently underperforming MLS team.

But for the team to keep up with the rapid growth of the American soccer league, a new owner is needed. The ideal owner is not far from home in John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox and English Premier League side Liverpool F.C. who are currently second in England’s top tier of soccer. What is truly needed is an owner willing to spend, not only on players but on the franchise itself. A move to Boston would ensure more regular fans at a new stadium, as Foxborough is not worth the drive for many soccer fans who want to see a good game. A cash intake into the starting eleven is also needed, as the team has only spent the $1.5 million on Gil, while the most spent by a team was $13.46 million by Atlanta United.

For now, the Revolution are left with a struggling team and little money being put into the team. But fans can only hope that something changes quickly and the 23-year-old franchise can put together a strong team to finally win their first MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield.

1 COMMENT

  1. Well written piece. If a competitive team were to appear in Boston, I would consider attending. You are spot on about the money. It would be good for soccer in the Northeast if BOSTON had a team.

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