SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes are moving to Houston. Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said Thursday the team's owners were attracted by the chance to play in front of an ethnically diverse population willing to support a soccer team. "We've always believed that the city has great potential to be a soccer market," Garber said. "We're excited about what our opportunities are there." San Jose officials had worked to keep the team from leaving, and even considered subsidizing a new stadium. The Earthquakes' current owner, Anschutz Entertainment Group, had expressed previous interest in moving the team to Houston. It is unhappy with the condition of the Spartan Stadium on the campus of San Jose State University and with the team's share of proceeds from parking and concession fees. San Jose will keep the Earthquakes team name, logo and colors, and the city already has signed a letter of intent with the hopes of attracting a MLS expansion team, perhaps as early as 2007. "It is our intent to return to San Jose as early as possible," Garber said. MLS officials said AEG has entered "positive discussions" about finding a soccer stadium in Houston. "It is with great regret that we were unable to find a solution to our facility issues in San Jose," AEG president Timothy J. Leiweke said. "It was not for lack of effort." Garber said all the coaches and contracted Earthquakes players will transfer to Houston.
Leiweke said in an interview with Houston television station KRIV that Oliver Luck, CEO of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, would be No. 1 on his list of the top 10 candidates for president of the new franchise. "I like his last name. If we were lucky enough to get Luck, tomorrow would be a good day to announce that," he said. Leiwke declined to say where the team would play. "We've worked long and hard for several months to try to bring MLS soccer here," said Frank Michel, a spokesman for Houston Mayor Bill White. Silicon Valley Sports and Entertainment, the San Jose Sharks' parent company, had expressed interest in buying the Earthquakes, but only with the city's help building a stadium. Led by Landon Donovan, the Quakes were MLS champions in 2001 and 2003. Attendance, however, has always been low. This past season the Quakes averaged just 13,037 fans at home.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press