There are only one or two instances in the 15 years of MLS history when the Columbus Crew and FC Dallas have both had a real crack at the Supporters’ Shield this late in a season.
The Crew are just three points off the top spot in MLS while FC Dallas are seven points adrift with a game in hand. Their top of the table matchup on Saturday night makes it that much tougher on the owners of the two clubs: Hunt Sports Group.
“I think the race for the Supporters’ Shield accentuates what a tough game this is for our family,” Clark Hunt said. “Potentially, somebody is not going to have a good result.”
The event takes on extra special importance because it represents Lamar Hunt Legacy Day at Crew Stadium. A statue of longtime MLS owner, Lamar Hunt, will be unveiled in Founders Park on the stadium grounds.
It will be the third such monument to the sports visionary after similar homage was paid to him at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and Pizza Hut Park in Frisco.
“My father made a good suggestion during the early years of the league that when the two teams play, we always cheer for the home team, which seems like the equitable thing to do,” Clark Hunt said. “But the truth is that it’s very difficult emotionally.”
Clark Hunt knows what soccer emotion is all about with a history in the sport outside of his involvement as an MLS investor and owner. He played four years for current FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman at Southern Methodist University and served as captain in his senior year.
Hyndman was handpicked by Hunt to lead FC Dallas as manager in 2008 and the Hoops owner appreciates the work of his former coach, who spent 24 years at SMU.
“[Hyndman] was very comfortable at SMU and had a tremendous program that almost automatically every year was a top-ranked team,” Hunt said. “I think it maybe caught him a little bit off guard how difficult the challenge [in MLS] was. He was certainly coming into a situation where Dallas was struggling.
“He’s done a great job of bringing in guys who can play in his system. They are playing like a team and that‘s probably the most important thing.”
Hunt also shared his views on the Crew and specifically what transpired in the club’s CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday. He believes officiating is a widespread issue in soccer that needs to be addressed eventually.
“We all learned this summer at the World Cup that there’s significant room for improvement in officiating in soccer on a global basis,” Hunt said. “There’s a chance in the next couple of years that we might get some meaningful change. I would certainly like to think that there’ll be a strong movement towards improving officiating because it’s something that needs to happen in the sport globally.”
Both the Crew and FC Dallas are front and center in the American soccer discussion and they feature in the marquee match-up of the MLS weekend. It would be a scenario that would have made Lamar Hunt proud.
“I think that he would be shocked at the progress that we [MLS] have made in the last four years,” Clark Hunt said. “The growth has been tremendous and, frankly, the vision that he had going back 40 years ago about what soccer can become in the United States is now becoming a reality.”