After Don Garber’s comments at half time of the MLS All-Star Game in Kansas City last night, the soccer landscape in North America will change drastically over the next five to seven years.
Bring it on.
MLS’ Commissioner confirmed on Wednesday that Major League Soccer will expand to 24 teams by the year 2020. Giving hope to thousands of fans across North America that their city will be home to one of MLS’ new franchises.
Garber’s comments have been welcomed with open arms by the US soccer community. And speculation is rife, as always, as to where these next franchises will pop up.
According to the following comments from the MLS Commish, the teams will help spread MLS’ reach to the whole of the US. So expect more teams in the Midwest and Southeast regions.
“As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”
So with that “geographic coverage” in mind, let’s split up potential MLS expansion cities into regions and analyze which city could come out on top.
Miami: With David Beckham involved in a potential franchise in Miami, this deal should get pushed through and I expect MIA to be one of two new franchises in Florida. The infrastructure will be there, the soccer fans are there but getting them all to support one team proved difficult in the past. Can it succeed this time?
Orlando: Brett Lashbrook is on board for a reason, MLS will come to Orlando very soon. Two of the four new MLS franchises look set for Florida, but Orlando have some hurdles to jump in order to get their new stadium built in time. With local business and the mayor at loggerheads, will MLS arrive in Miami before Orlando? USL Pro outfit Orlando City are pretty confident though and after a great Open Cup run and big crowds, they should be.
Atlanta: A city that has long been earmarked for an expansion franchise, the Atlanta Silverbacks of NASL have a sparkling new soccer complex that can be expanded. Owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Arthur Blank, has proposed a soccer team coming to the newly developed Falcons stadium in downtown ATL. If it could be similar to the way BC Place is adapted for the Whitecaps, that would be pretty awesome.
Oklahoma City: In terms of soccer in the Midwest, OKC is embracing the world’s sport like no other. Over the past month, USL Pro and NASL have set up rival franchises in the city as they aim to bring MLS to town one day. The support for both teams will be analyzed over the coming years and Oklahoma would certainly be an interesting option for MLS expansion.
St. Louis: There is no professional soccer team in St. Louis, and there are no plans for one either. But that doesn’t mean there are no soccer fans in STL. Oh no. We saw a huge crowd of over 48,000 pack Busch Stadium when Manchester City and Chelsea visited earlier this summer for a friendly and the sports mad town could definitely have some awesome rivalries with Chicago and Kansas City. Why not St. Louis?
Minneapolis: Minnesota United, Minnesota Stars and all the other name changes it has gone through, the Twin Cities have long been home to second and third-tier soccer teams. Can it make the jump up to MLS? A possible stadium link up with the Vikings has been mooted, but will there be enough fans to fill a 20,000 plus soccer-specific stadium week in, week out?
Indianapolis: Chelsea play Inter Milan at the Lucas Oil Stadium later today and the Indy Eleven franchise will start NASL play next season. Indy is definitely becoming a soccer obsessed city. The MLS SuperDraft was there in January and this town would also provide a great link between the East coast and the cities of Chicago and KC.
Detroit: Plans for a new downtown soccer stadium are close to being submitted in Detroit, as soccer fans in the Motor City have been causing quite a stir for sometime. A NPSL side, Detroit City, regularly attracts over 5,000 fans and the atmosphere created for a minor-league soccer team is incredible. A dark horse for MLS expansion?
Sacramento: Preki is now in charge, and something tells me the former USMNT and MLS legend wouldn’t be involved with the Californian team unless something huge was on the horizon. Ambitious plans have already been unveiled for the Sacramento Republic. Can they back that up in their USL Pro debut season next year?
San Antonio: The sparkling gem that is Toyota Field has become the jewel in NASL’s stadium crown. With a 8,000 capacity that can be expanded, soccer is a big deal in the Texas city. Rivalries with Dallas and Houston would be massive for the league and the Scorpions are one of NASL’s best run outfits. Potential.
Phoenix: At the moment the Arizona city has a USL Pro in its first season of play, but could it grow into an MLS franchise? Perhaps not. Although crowd numbers have been decent in its inaugural year, it is hard to see cities such as San Antonio ans Sacramento not jumping ahead of Phoenix out west.
Where else? Obviously there are plenty of other cities not on this list, (Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Las Vegas to name a few) so where should MLS look to expand?
There are plenty of worthy regions across the US and Canada. Tell us where you think they should be.