“City of Champions.”
That’s what my best friend’s shirts reads. Of course, being from Boston, we all love the “big four” teams — the Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins. All four have won some of the most championships in their respective leagues; as kids who grew up in the Boston area, we were blessed to be fans of such successful teams. And we never took it for granted.
But yet, even though my friends and I are all massive soccer fans, nobody really cares about the Revolution. Everyone has a European team that they love, but no one likes the Revs.
Full disclosure: I am exactly one of those people. I’ve been a fan of Bayern Munich for about 8 years now, but I never have been a Revs “fan”, rather a casual observer with a bit of a soft spot who occasionally goes to games.
So what has gone wrong for the Revs? Here’s part one of my series chronicling the plights of the New England club.
Gillette Stadium: The best of stadiums, the worst of stadiums
Gillette: Home of two teams that collectively have 5 championships since 2001.
The Revs have contributed 0 of those championships.
Undeniably, when telling the story of why the Revs are so unlikable, the stadium has to be the first thing you talk about. I mean, when it comes down to it, a stadium is what defines a club; a stadium is home, it’s where legendary goals happen, it’s where the fans come together every weekend to watch.
Gillette is a horrible soccer stadium. The first thing is that it’s on turf. Nobody likes to play soccer on turf. Famous stars that have played in MLS like Thierry Henry have refused to play on turf in the past; thus, when trying to attract big stars, the Revs having to play on turf every other weekend surely plays a role in a player’s decision whether or not to come.
It’s also a horrible stadium for soccer because of the fact that the Patriots play there. No one is going to deny that the Patriots take precedence over the Revs any day of the week. What that means is certain small annoyances like having to watch soccer games with football lines still painted on the field in the later months of the MLS season.
Distance from Boston
However, even those things don’t really matter. Teams like the Sounders have made those same problems work. What really makes Gillette horrible is its distance from downtown.
If you’re not from Boston, you probably don’t realize how far Gillette actually is from downtown. I chose a big university in Boston – BU – as often young people are the biggest soccer fans. It’s almost a 45 minute drive from BU to Gillette. Nobody wants to drive that far if it’s not for the Pats.
Not to mention, college students in big cities often don’t have cars. How in the world are they going to get down to Gillette otherwise? There have been efforts at buses, but they haven’t been very popular. What the Revs need is a stadium accessible by train. Young people use trains, not cars, not buses, and certainly not when the destination is so far away.
The other bad thing about Gillette is that it is way too big for the Revs. Unlike in football, in soccer good stadiums are closely packed; you can feel the reverberation of the celebrations when a goal goes in.
While the above photo may be from the dark American soccer days of 2003, you can see why a stadium like this doesn’t work for soccer. Maybe in football where you need to be zoomed out to get a sense of what is going on a stadium like this would work, but in soccer, this is not what you want for a smallish team like the Revs.
The Revs need a stadium that is T-accessible, in downtown Boston or somewhere decently close to it, and that is much smaller. There have been many efforts in recent years to find a new stadium, and I don’t blame the front office for the bad stadium situation. If you ask Brian Bilello, the Revs president, he will tell you that they have invested millions into this problem.
It’s simply just not easy to find a good place for a stadium in a an already crowded city like Boston. The Red Sox are very lucky to have Fenway Park in such a desirable location, as are the Celtics and Bruins with the Garden.
And don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate the Revs. This isn’t a “Fuck MLS, Revs SUCK” kind of shitpost. I write this article as a concerned Revs constituent. Hopefully, sooner rather than later there will be a new stadium in Revs-land.
Stay tuned for more on what the Revs need to do to be successful.