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The nonprofit Scorpions finally brought professional soccer to SA, but will it stick?

Photo: Photos by Kimberly Jennings, License: N/A

Photos by Kimberly Jennings

English forward Euan Purcell fights for a ball during one of the Scorpions' pre-season games.

Photo: , License: N/A

Founder Gordon Hartman

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Founder Gordon Hartman's daughter Morgan Hartman

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Coach Hankinson

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

The team before one of the pre-season games. Pablo Campos, top row, far left; Mexican international Javier Saavedra fourth from left in bottom row.

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Hartman's obsession is to bring people to soccer, yes, but ultimately he wants to make them aware of the special-needs community. "We get no public funding whatsoever, and 100 percent of our profits go to special-needs individuals. That's what we're all about."

According to Hartman, "Revenues generated will be used to cover expenses of operating the team ... and all net profits after expenses will go directly to supporting special needs programs." They may not get public funding, but they don't appear to need it. Sponsors are beginning to pile up. Most notably: Univision, the U.S. largest Spanish-language TV network, which on April 7 is launching a 24-hour sports channel.

"We're very excited about the partnership," Luis Patiño, senior vice president of Univision Television Group, told the Current from New York. "I think San Antonio is ready for soccer. There's been a lot of talk about it in the last 10 years and is finally happening, and I'm proud to be a part of it, especially because of their 'Soccer with a Cause' approach."

As the Scorpions' exclusive Spanish-language media partner, Univision will promote Scorpions games on TV and will have a Sunday night segment with game highlights and a "coach's forum" with Hankinson, "who speaks pretty good Spanish," according to Patiño. But it has yet to be decided if the games will be aired live.

"It all depends on how well they do [on the field]," Patiño said. "If they put on a strong team and get the support of the community ... chances are good. If they bring more players from Latin America and remain relevant to our community, they'll do a fantastic job."

According to the team, ticket sales are going well.

"We have exceeded our goal of selling 3,000 season tickets and we will continue to sell season tickets to all of our great fans," Scorpions Director of Sales and Marketing Evan Mitz told the Current. "We expect to sell out the home opener." 

On-the-field results, so far, have also been encouraging. Ten weeks of intensive training began on February 15, including several scrimmage games. After a February 24 0-3 defeat against the U.S. pre-Olympic national team in Frisco, the Scorpions scored nine goals in three games. Most notably, on March 14 in Stockton, Calif., the Scorpions beat Mexico's second-division Dorados de Sinaloa, which features veteran Mexican superstar Cuauhtémoc Blanco. With Dorados dominating possession for most of the game, the Scorpions won through a solid defense and lethal counterattack. On March 31, the Scorpions bested the amateur Laredo Heat 3-1 at the STAR Soccer Complex. Brazilian forward Pablo Campos scored two goals and enters the season as the team's top scorer (six goals in pre-season).

But win or lose, Hartman and Scorpions are here to stay.

"I'm spending million of dollars on a first-class stadium with 14 suites," Hartman said. "I'm in here for the long haul. No question about it." •


* First reported as "Major Soccer League."

** Originally: "The league is what remains of the Pelé-led organization of the '70s and '80s." Corrected 04/06/2012.

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