How to grow a fan base: San Antonio F.C. prepares for new chapter in SA soccer

Team to play home opener Saturday night in front of packed stadium

SAN ANTONIO – It's a new team, a new league and a new era for soccer in San Antonio.

But is the San Antonio F.C. starting from scratch with its fan base?

The new minor-league soccer team will play its first home game Saturday night at Toyota Field, the former home of the Scorpions. The Spurs Sports & Entertainment-backed team will play in the United Soccer League in hopes it will provide a clearer path to the MLS.

Those major league goals are driving the roughly 1,400 registered members of the Crocketteers soccer supporter group to wholeheartedly embrace the new club. Nearly 30 Crocketteers even showed up to San Antoino F.C.'s first game, a 3-0 victory on the road against Seattle.

"Our membership numbers are up. The excitement level is up," Crocketteers president James Hope said.

Those are the diehard fans, though. The ones "who stand for 90 minutes, harass referees and goalkeepers, and wear scarves in 100-degree weather," to use Hope's words.

With a months-old team, not everyone knows the new team in town. Asked who the city's minor league soccer team was as he watched his daughter's soccer practice, Joe Bonugli confidently answered "the Scorpions."

"Somebody just told me," said Joe Miller, watching the practice from a truck bed with Bonugli. "Coach did."

"Is it San Antonio F.C.?" hazarded Hunter Washburn, the last of the trio.

Oof! That’s a rough response from that nonscientific sampling of the city's soccer dad population.

Still, S.A.F.C. Managing Director Tim Holt thinks it won't be too long before everybody knows S.A.F.C. is the team in town.

"It's never everybody, right?" he said. "But it's a process, and Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will San Antonio F.C. be."

The plan, as Holt describes it, is to raise public awareness of the team, get fans committed to the team and give them a good team to cheer for. They're off to a good start with that 3-0 victory, not to mention about 3,000 season-ticket holders.

Melinda Capetillo and her family hold four of those tickets.

"We're so excited about San Antonio having a soccer team," she said as her son tried on new cleats. "We're going to follow San Antonio F.C. Just like we did the Scorpions."

The strength of a fan base is hard to measure before a game ball is ever kicked on the home pitch, but the team is at least poised to have a solid crowd Saturday. Holt said all seats had been sold out for days. Fewer than 100 standing-room-only tickets are left, he said.

If you plan on going, you may want to grab your ticket soon before everyone else remembers the new team in town, too.

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