By Ryan Smythe
MLQ West is gone – hopefully not forever, but it’s impossible to know for how long. This heartbreaking turn isn’t unexpected given the troubled three-year history of the region marred by failed franchises, high cost of travel, borderline libelous coverage, etc., but that doesn’t stop it from being a considerable blow to the people who still cared enough to lace up every weekend and make the trek to other cities in the region.
Based on the results of this survey, it’s not hard to see how this decision was made. Los Angeles (25 interested players), the only West area showing enough interest to field enough players for a full squad, has faced its own issues ranging from players failing to show up to a single practice following placement on the main squad to USQ team tensions carrying over into the summer. Salt Lake City (14 interested players), the second highest result for the region, was already in hot water after collapsing in on itself at Championships and needed an overwhelming show of support to reasonably remain in contention for the 2019 season. Instead, the city lost its core community team, Crimson Elite, to a combination of attrition, apathy, and an overall lack of interest. For all intents and purposes, they conceded their spot in MLQ before the survey was even sent out.
San Francisco (six interested players) is easily the biggest surprise and disappointment of the survey. This city never failed to field a full, competent roster of players. It’s home to a strong contingent of quality USQ Community and College squads who could (if you gathered together the collective rosters of the Dobbys, Vipers, and Breakers along with any college players who lived or worked in the area over the summer) arguably field two complete MLQ teams if push came to shove, albeit at a competitive disadvantage. Given the vitriol levied at retired manager Liz Barcelos from local players and that vacant seat open for new blood to take over, it seemed like the city was primed for a new look in 2019. That clearly wasn’t the case, given the dismal response.
It’s heartbreaking to say the least, but the writing was on the wall since the first day MLQ expanded west. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City were solid to excellent cities, but MLQ’s inability to find a fourth option hamstrung the division before it had the chance to run. Phoenix (six interested players) was a terrible option from the jump. Expecting a college city to field a summer team was never going to work. Boise (zero reported interested players), a city with a core group of players known to act irrationally and even violently on pitch was downright dangerous.
It’s hard to see how the West, or at the very least LA makes its way back into MLQ, but the light isn’t completely out yet. Texas Secede League (37 interested San Antonio players), Seattle (32 interested players), Minneapolis (39 interested players), and Florida’s MLQ-lite (33 interested Orlando players) are all proof that regions don’t need support from a governing body to put together summer competitions. It’s too early to say what will happen in the West this summer, but counting out the region entirely, like so many on forums love to do, is far from the most likely option.
Florida, along with the West region, will be watching these expansion teams with watchful eyes. At this point, Minneapolis and Kansas City are now the most isolated teams in the nation. Florida isn’t exactly the closest location in the country, but given MLQ’s willingness to axe underwhelming teams in favor of expansion should keep the state on high alert for the future. Hopefully, these concerns turn out to be nothing for the sake of the dedicated players in those regions, but tensions and frustrations are running at an all-time high.
MLQ stretched itself thin expanding across the country, and condensing the league to the east of the Rockies is likely a good move from an organizational standpoint. It never managed to gain enough of a foothold to take off in the way that many people in the region believed it has the potential to. Now the region has to rely on itself to remain on the summer map – something it managed to do in the past. Back in the pre-MLQ days, summer fantasy tournaments were all the rage, and West Fantasy was among the premier events of the offseason. Now, it’s up to experienced local organizers and new blood to take control and keep the region from falling into summer obscurity.