When Gareth Bale considered moving to MLS, Los Angeles and Miami topped his list. Los Angeles FC won out, and Bale proved a difference-maker last year as LAFC captured the MLS Cup.
Teams such as the Revolution had little chance of capturing big-name signings such as Bale. and that has long been the story for the Revolution, who open their 28th season with a visit to Charlotte FC Saturday.
The Revolution have come close to winning the MLS Cup — five finals appearances from 2002-14 — and in recent seasons they have been revived under the coaching of Bruce Arena, a five-time MLS Cup winner. But getting to the title game has become more difficult as the league expands.
Until recently, the Revolution were lagging behind not only major markets but also cities new to the league, eager to commit resources to professional soccer.
The Revolution might have been behind in modernizing their operation but now seem to have nearly everything in place: a $35 million training center; a roster maxed out on Designated Players; plus the most successful coach in MLS history. The one thing missing, according to Arena, is a soccer-specific stadium.
“I think most people on the outside would say it’s not likely that we can compete for an MLS Cup because the bigger markets have an advantage — LA and New York and Miami and Atlanta and maybe Austin, as well,” Arena said. “We are making progress, and you know, we did set a league record two years ago for getting the most points in a regular season, so I wouldn’t count us out on anything.
“But certainly those markets have an advantage. They have excellent game-day facilities in terms of soccer, and we think Gillette is great, but you know, we all know that it’s probably best that we eventually have a stadium here in Boston. And when that happens, I think we can compete with almost any franchise in Major League Soccer.
“But right now, I think we’ve made a lot of progress since 2019. And we’ll continue to do that and hopefully that’ll position us to win an MLS Cup one day. But certainly those are the markets. Those markets have an advantage at the moment.”
Not having their own home field doesn’t mean the Revolution cannot attract high-profile players. But New England will not often be the stars’ first choice. Bale specified he would go only to Los Angeles or Miami (LAFC outbid Inter Miami, paying Bale $2.3 million, significantly lower than his salary at Real Madrid).
Few elite players in their prime have been attracted to MLS, but with the 2026 World Cup set to be played in North America, that could soon change.
So, can the Revolution expect to compete while playing at Gillette Stadium, an outsized facility located outside the city, featuring artificial turf?
“You look at Bruce’s track record as a manager, he obviously knows how to win MLS Cups,” Revolution midfielder Matt Polster said. “And when you add personnel to our team that make us more competitive as a group, it’s going to be difficult to pick a starting 11 on the weekend. And to win in MLS, you have to have competition in the team.”
As for a stadium, Polster said, “I’ve obviously heard rumors that we could potentially get one and I know players in the past have [heard] rumors, as well. My hopes are up because I want it to happen, but all I can focus on and control is soccer.”
The Revolution have a history of being their own worst enemy. They rejected an advance from Robbie Keane’s representatives before Keane went to Los Angeles Galaxy, winning three MLS Cups under Arena’s coaching from 2011-14.
Like many of the league’s original teams, the Revolution lacked ambition, preferring gradual growth rather than risk a boom-to-bust scenario. Now, though, MLS owners eager for success are willing to scrap the league’s spending constraints (while maintaining a salary cap). With Arena in charge, the Revolution should stay in step with league trends.
But they will not likely be in the market for big-time players, who have their choice of the world’s capitals or can “settle” for ultra-lucrative deals in the Far East or Middle East. Nor will a brand-new, 25,000-seat stadium in Suffolk County be enough to attract the next Real Madrid star, used to performing before 80,000-plus crowds at Estadio Bernabeu.
But a new facility could go far in improving the Revolution’s image.
“It would be a great step for this club,” said Revolution defender Brandon Bye, a South Boston resident. “I’ve been here six years now and every now and then you hear a little whisper about it here and there. It would be an amazing thing. Hopefully that comes before my time ends here.
“Geographically, Boston is a very small place, but I see plenty of lots out there — so it would be a pretty cool thing to just drop a stadium into one.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.