At halftime of last week’s MLS All-Star game, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that Major League Soccer will expand to 24 teams by 2020. With the announcement of NYC FC, New York’s second team will bring the league to 20 teams, leaving many potential cities fighting for 4 spots. The MLS will look to expand to 22 by 2015’s season start, tied to the expiration of the current MLS TV deal which expires at the end of the 2014 season. For any city to be in serious contention they must have a strong ownership backing, local support, and stadium plans in place.
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Miami is the city most likely to pick up an MLS team by 2015 due to 2 words: David Beckham. When Beckham signed with the MLS/Los Angeles Galaxy his contract offered ownership of an expansion team at a bargain price. Beckham’s contract stated that he can purchase an MLS expansion franchise for $25 million, compared to the $100 million that NYC FC paid for their franchise rights. The MLS has failed once before in Miami after the Miami Fusion struggled after 4 seasons. But this is different; Beckham will be a magnet for other partners and corporate sponsors.
Orlando already has an established franchise in the United Soccer League, Orlando City FC. With Brazilian owner Flávio Augusto da Silva and partner Phil Rawlins calling the shots there are already talks of an 18,000 soccer specific stadium in place. Miami looks like a lock to be the 21st team, Orlando would be a great spot for a potential rivalry. Oh, and they hired Don Garber’s former special assistant and have tasked him with the responsibility for negotiating the expansion agreement with MLS.
Minnesota (50%) –
Minnesota seems to be the favorite for a potential Midwest expansion franchise. Minnesota has featured a minor league team in the NASL or USL since 1990 and would be a prime spot for a Midwest franchise. Surprisingly Minneapolis/St. Paul features two of the top youth clubs in the Midwest, Shattuck St. Marys and Minnesota Thunder which would help in regards of support and potentially homegrown players. Recently the Minnesota Vikings have made inquiries about acquiring an MLS franchise once the Viking’s new stadium is built. A facility that has already gotten the thumbs up from MLS.
North Carolina (50%) –
A recent hotbed for youth soccer and a booming economy, the Raleigh/Charlotte area would be an ideal spot for an expansion team. The Carolina Railhawks are one of the more successful teams in the NASL and already have a soccer specific style stadium that seats 10,000 with plans for expansion. The Carolina area features four top USSDA Academy teams, not to mention the number of local universities with a deep soccer background.
San Antonio (40%) –
The only city with a soccer specific stadium already in place suitable for an MLS attendance is San Antonio. After being in the NASL one year, San Antonio opened the doors to Toyota Park, an 18,000 soccer stadium this past year. With 2 MLS teams already in Texas, San Antonio could face a backlash; however, it would be able to provide a strong rivalry within the state between Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas. Not to mention, the state of Texas features 9 USSDA academy programs, second only to California’s 13 USSDA academies.
St. Louis (25%)–
A deep history of soccer and a community that has purchased nearly 100,000 tickets for Manchester City/Chelsea and the upcoming Real Madrid/Inter Milan friendlies, St. Louis has a proven fan base. The Chesterfield Valley would be prime location for an MLS franchise that could resemble Sporting Kansas City’s setup. The problem remains finding the right local investor. Through failed attempts by previous potential owner, Jeff Cooper, St. Louis is a risky play for many potential investors. Stan Kroenke (Arsenal and Colorado Rapids) and Shad Khan (Fulham) were the obvious choices before but now that both local investors have their hands in other soccer related ventures it seems unlikely that St. Louis will be able to find a local investor.
Atlanta (25%) –
Atlanta is currently the largest media market without an MLS team. Despite Atlanta’s current NASL team having little aspirations for promotion to the MLS, the Falcons have been strongly linked with their new stadium to bring in an MLS team. With Orlando and Miami considered as the most probable expansion franchises, it would be a surprise if the MLS would give 3 of the 4 franchises to the southeast region.
Honorable mentions: Ottawa, Phoenix, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, San Diego, Edmonton
Fans of bringing MLS to St Louis have a number of resources to consider. Coming soon is KickstartSTL.com a group that is working to bring the US Soccer National Hall of Fame to St Louis. Their efforts with local sponsors are also designed to ensure that a potential ownership group has a great starting point when discussing marketing and fan support.
In addition, the St Louis Soccer Alliance is a loosely organized group of area soccer ownership groups and supporters. Jim Shipley of the St Louis Lions is the President. There is a website and a Facebook page as well as a Twitter account.
The St Louligans, who provided the fine graphic used to illustrate this story, also have a website, Facebook page and Twitter account. A Louligan is anyone willing to support St. Louis soccer. We love what we’ve got and want to build it to the best we can!
Born and raised in St Louis. Played for Scott Gallagher for 9 years. Currently coaching the future total footballers of the world at Scott Gallagher. Proud supporter of Arsenal, USMNT, and Holland soccer. You can follow him on Twitter at @dorseyMZ.
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