In the Box: MLS arrival

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When the Texans hired executive Jamey Rootes to help them launch an expansion NFL team most did not know of Rootes' connection to the sport of soccer.

An accomplished college player at Clemson University in South Carolina, Rootes went on to become the general manager of the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.


As general manager in Columbus, Rootes helped establish "America's hardest working team" in the Ohio City, while helping to get the first soccer specific stadium in the U.S. built, known as Crew Stadium.

With Major League Soccer here in Houston one must look back on the hiring of Rootes not only as significant for the Texans but also for the sport of soccer in our city.

Without Rootes' soccer involvement with Lone Star Entertainment, professional soccer might not be here.

Since May of 2003 when the United States and Mexican national teams played to a 1-1 draw in front of a sold-out Reliant Stadium crowd, Rootes has helped bring world-class soccer events to Houston like the InterLiga tournament, Copa de Tejas and the Gold Cup this past summer where over 100,000 fans went through the turnstiles.

The recent Mexico/Bulgaria international friendly drew 36,000 more fans on a weeknight, again proving out the potential of Houston as a soccer city and potential home of MLS.

Without these international events I am hard-pressed to think that MLS would be in Houston. These matches took Houston over the top in the eyes of the rest of the country and to executives in Major League Soccer offices.

Of course the platform was in place with massive soccer interest in our city.

Our youth community ranks as one of the most progressive in the nation and has provided both MLS and colleges throughout the country with players.

Our adult leagues are filled with ex-college, professional, and youth players who grew up in our community and have a burning passion for the sport.

Heads of leagues, clubs and teams week in and week out passionately enjoy the connection with the global game.

The demographics of our city have changed remarkably over the last 20 years and the Hispanic community deserves a large pat on the back for supporting the international events that have come to Reliant Stadium by purchasing tickets.

Being the fourth-largest city in the United States with such diversity makes the potential of Houston as a soccer market limitless.

Anschutz Entertainment Group (which owns and operates Houston's new MLS team) made a great decision by hiring Oliver Luck, the former Harris County Sports Authority head, to be president of the new MLS franchise.

His challenge is to make this franchise one that serves the needs of all Houston soccer fans.

Having spent time establishing NFL Europe, Luck's respect and affinity towards soccer is apparent.

Word from the MLS league office in New York City is that over 1,500 season tickets have been reserved so far in Houston. A great show of support by fans.

Another way of showing support is by attending the Jan 4. InterLiga matches featuring Necaxa and Cruz Azul and Chivas against Tigres.

After all, without these international games coming through Houston since 2003 MLS just might not be here.

Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches for the Fox Network as well. He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show presented by Soccer 4 ALL on ESPN 790 AM every Sunday from 5-6 pm. Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where he was a league all star selection and team captain.

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