Expansion

Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

San Antonio sends MLS scathing letter, League denies it misled expansion bid

1 Comment

Major League Soccer’s playoff run continues to be overshadowed by unsavory fallout from Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt’s proposal to move the club to Austin, Texas.

This time, league involvement isn’t limited to the whys and hows of approving or buttressing Precourt’s intentions, rather how MLS has treated other proposed expansion markets.

[ PL PLAYBACK: Now or never for Spurs? ]

Primarily, this directly affects San Antonio. The USL market is about 80 miles from Austin, and sent a ravaging letter to MLS accusing the league of misleading it.

Here’s the whole letter but for the TL:DR crowd: Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff claims that MLS misled San Antonio in 2015 when it encouraged the city to buy a specific stadium despite the knowledge that Precourt had a clause that allowed him to move the Crew to Austin.

MLS says it is preparing a formal response but strongly disagrees with Wolff’s assertions.

Here’s Wolff, who wrote the letter. This Columbus to Austin story isn’t getting any more fun, so at least take our advise at this bit of amusement. Pay particular intention to Wolff’s “Oh yes” response when asked around 1:24 whether San Antonio was misled by MLS.

Follow @NicholasMendola

So what’s with the MLS expansion fight in Sacramento?

Photo by Alexis Cuarezma/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sacramento Republic FC is one of the top feel-good stories in the past few years of American professional soccer, but some of the luster has been lost over the last 24 hours.

By no means does that mean the shine will not return — you can’t fake Sacramento’s support for soccer — but bickering owners have caused much consternation over one city’s Major League Soccer bid.

[ MORE: College defender joins Sunderland ]

Twelve groups bid for teams in the latest round of MLS expansion, and Sacramento was one of them. The problem? The Republic name was not attached, as it’s owned by team founder Warren Smith. Smith does not have a good relationship with main investor and expansion bid leader Kevin Nagle.

From the Sacramento Bee:

Less than 24 hours after the bid was formally submitted, representatives of Republic FC charged that lead investor Kevin Nagle violated his agreement with the club by applying for the MLS franchise without using the Republic brand. Nagle, however, said he doesn’t control the rights to the Republic brand, hasn’t been able to negotiate an agreement with team founder Warren Smith on the sale of the brand, and had to submit the bid Tuesday in order to meet MLS’ deadline.

It’s easy to get bogged down in personal drama, and it seems inevitable that Smith and Nagle will come to terms with the fact that their beef will not be respected by Sacramento soccer fans if it gets in the way of what many have called a ‘slam dunk’ expansion bid (especially with both Sacramento’s mayor and MLS hierarchy involved in the move).

Get it sorted, fellas.

It’s official: Major League Soccer welcomes Minnesota United FC for 2018

4 Comments

“Is going to MLS, is going to MLS. The team that nobody wanted, the team that nobody wanted, the team that nobody wanted… is going to MLS.”

That was the chant from Dark Clouds, a supporters group of Minnesota United FC as they revealed news that was far from a secret.

Now it’s official: NASL side Minnesota United FC will become an MLS side in 2018, with a soccer-specific stadium planned for the Farmer’s Market area of Minneapolis.

[ MORE: Clint Dempsey hurt ]

The press conference was held at Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, and featured such USMNT luminaries as Landon Donovan and Tony Sanneh.

MLS commissioner Don Garber called it “a historic day for our sport”, hailing the ownership group as a major reason for “Why Minnesota?” He then introduced Dr. Bill McGuire.

“It’s hard to be anything but humbled,” said an emotional McGuire.

Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next expansion team (after Atlanta’s Wednesday announcement)

19 Comments

When we went live with our post on Atlanta being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, we originally called it the league’s 23rd team. Technically, Miami doesn’t have a team yet; David Beckham has merely exercised his option. Particularly after MLS called Atlanta No. 22, we made the change. Twenty-three teams are being planned, put one is still theoretical.

As it concerns the bigger “24 by 2020” picture, however, you have to include Beckham United, meaning there’s probably only one slot open in this round of expansion. If the feelings Garber conveyed in last month’s teleconference are as accurate regarding No. 24 as they were about Atlanta, there’s a huge favorite in the quest to grab that final expansion slot.

Last month, our ranking went five deep. This time, we don’t need to go beyond two:

1. Minneapolis – The picture in Minnesota is complex, with Garber speaking favorably of Bill McGuire’s Minnesota United FC group last month. But as we learned earlier today, the Vikings are “stepping up” their pursuit. With Garber having said the league would like another team in the midwest, everything is lining up to go to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The choice seems to be whether to go with the promotion model (ala Seattle, Portland, Orlando, and Vancouver) or the big partner route (ala New York City FC, Atlanta, and … oh yeah, Seattle).

2. The Field – Places like San Antonio and Sacramento might have better claims than others, but perceived hot spots like St. Louis and San Diego have some superficial national appeal. With that in mind, we could blow out this list, but what’s the point? There no other market nearly as attractive as Minneapolis in terms of ownership, interest, and potential venues, a disparity that has lumped every other candidate into a big “not Minnesota” pile.

That there’s some inner-market competition ensures all bidders will continue to push each other, making it even more difficult to other cities to catch up. Though the scarcity of spots means another bid could develop a sense of urgency, right now, there’s Minneapolis and there’s everything else.

Looking at the latest round of David Beckham-MLS Expansion speculation

1 Comment

A Reuters report out of Miami has kicked up the next dust cloud of David Beckham-MLS Expansion speculation.

Here’s the story, which says that Beckham will be in Miami this week for preliminary discussions. And there are two important elements here, two bites of info that elevate this report beyond sports page gossip, and beyond some local entity talking up a pie-in-the-sky MLS deal that has zero chance of happening:

First, it has a high level source, Miami mayor Manny Diaz. Score one for old-fashioned sourcing.

Second, the attached money man – not that Beckham doesn’t have a bunch of it himself – may be Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure. He was involved with MLS expansion talks once before but backed out for reasons that were a bit murky.

It is always important to remember when it comes to MLS expansion talks (and it gets lost with a frustrating frequency) that MLS wants major-player money. They simply do not want to get into situations where an owner gets cash poor and causes problems for the rest of the group through reluctance to spend or because they can’t meet cash calls or whatever. That happened at least once before in … wait for it … Miami.

R.I.P., Miami Fusion. Those were good times while they lasted, weren’t they?

So Claure’s involvement would be a significant development. The Miami-based businessman is founder of global wireless giant Brightstar Corp.

Of course, then other important element in play is Major League Soccer’s desire to “take a breath” on expansion once New York City FC launches in 2015.  So this thing is three years down the road at best, unless the Chivas USA wild card were to somehow coming into play.