Will this ever exist?

The Angle

Who’s Next For MLS Expansion?

by on 19 December 2016

Ten cities, four* spots, same old considerations?

A little over one year ago, I wrote about the developing race for the 25th through 28th spots in MLS. What unexpectedly followed was a year in which the expansion process was set to a slow burn. The monthly expansion updates that we’d come to expect diminished, and we had twelve months without constant drip-drip-drip of news from cities battling for periodically dispensed spots in our nation’s first division league.

But the respite is surely over after last week’s announcement that the league would begin its formal process to select teams 25-28. Interestingly, interest in the league is now so intense that MLS was able to name drop ten cities who were expected to vie for the bids. The situation is a far cry from the NHL’s recent experience of having two cities bid for two spots, (and rejecting one of them all the same).

Of these ten cities, eight appeared on my list of sixteen last year. The three cities I pegged as favorites have made it through to this round, and some new groups have emerged where previously there was only potential. Most intriguingly of all, there are some really interesting decisions that the league will have to make. As I argued in the previous post, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds, but MLS’ expansion decision making hews closely to what you’d expect if you just looked at simple demographic facts. It’s no secret that MLS wants to expand in cities with more people and not less. More Fortune 500 companies and not less. Higher median income and not lower. We spend a lot of time parsing things like brand identities, ambition, and which fanbase “deserves” it more. But MLS ultimately thinks like a business, and so there’s been a predictability to their approach.

Will that hold true in this latest round? You can make a better argument that it will not. With the addition of Atlanta (No. 11) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (No.15), the league now has teams in all but three of the fifteen largest combined statistical areas in the US. The league also will have a presence in ten of the eleven contiguous US megaregions and some of their largest constituent islands. Given these accomplishments, there is less pressure on the league to check off certain “boxes,” as they’ve done in the 2010s with teams in Florida (check), the South (check), NY2 (check), LA2 (check, again), and the North (check). In theory, the league could chart a new course, with teams 25-28, picking clubs for their own quality, and advancing regional rivalries. Of the ten clubs and cities looking for entry, there are clearly five who are putting their hopes in this thesis, while the other five would benefit from a more geographic and demographic-based decision.

For what it’s worth, MLS’ official criteria are as follows:

  1. A committed local ownership group that has a passion for the sport, a deep belief in Major League Soccer and the resources to invest in the infrastructure to build the sport in their respective market.
  2. A market that has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events, is located in a desirable geographic location and is attractive to corporate sponsors and television partners.
  3. A comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will have a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.

I take these as the baseline. All of the candidates will be able to demonstrate these features to a satisfactory degree. Even Nashville, which has no serious history of professional soccer, has hosted USMNT friendlies with distinction.

With all of this being said, let’s take a closer look at each of the ten cities who we know are publicly in the mix, ranked generally in order of likelihood of getting a club into MLS in this cycle. It’s possible, if not probable, that not all of these cities and groups will bid. But for the sake of this article, I’m assuming they all are, and that no bid has fatal flaws.

1. Sacramento

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,513,103 (25th)
Growth (10-14): 4.07%
MSA Median Income: $46,106 (40th)
Fortune 1000: 0

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 1
Obvious MLS Rivalry: San Jose Earthquakes (2 hours)
Current Team? Yes.
In Need of a Rebrand? No.
Stadium Progress: Ready to go.

Sacramento Republic FC remain the favorites for MLS expansion through the sheer effectiveness of their campaign. This is a bid about which MLS officials have been quoted as saying “It’s not a matter of if, but when.” They were the first runners up in the last expansion process, have a stadium plan ready to go, have maintained excellent attendance in USL, their brand is fantastic and (like Orlando) have only a struggling NBA team to compete against in the marketplace. The political winds also continue to blow in their favor. Former mayor Kevin Johnson, whose national reputation had nosedived amid scandal, has been replaced by the newly elected mayor Darrell Steinberg, who said in April of this year, “Yes, we need to be a Major League Soccer city.”

Sacramento’s liabilities remain. The city’s complete lack of major corporations is a disadvantage that is unique. Perhaps the city’s status as capital of the state may make it more appealing for sponsors. Or perhaps the city’s proximity to the Bay Area would help draw attention? That relationship is a blessing and a curse for Sacramento. The San Jose Earthquakes are a likely rival on the field, but may still seek to block Sacramento from joining and have endorsed Sacramento, probably after the Republic agreed to a payoff of some kind. From the league’s perspective, a “hot” rivalry between Sacramento and San Jose might help it capture local media and fan attention as the Hudson River Derby has in New York. MLS has not made a serious dent in the Bay Area and Northern California, and perhaps adding Sacramento to the mix could help on that front.

2. St. Louis

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,900,605 (22nd)
Growth (10-14): 0.63%
MSA Median Income: $44,437 (65th)
Fortune 1000: 18

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 2
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Chicago (4 hours, 15 minutes), Kansas City (3 hours, 30 minutes)
Current Team? Involved.
In Need of a Rebrand? Yeah, probably.
Stadium Progress: This is the big wrinkle.

There is no doubt that St. Louis is the city that MLS most wants to be in. This is a city with tremendous soccer history, a proven market for the sport, and just the right distance away from natural rivals Chicago and Kansas City. The problem in St. Louis since just about day one of the league’s founding, has been a lack of ownership. But that’s no longer a problem, as a wealthy, local, and committed ownership has emerged with a serious plan. Current USL team St. Louis FC is involved in the bid. The stars have aligned for MLS in St. Louis, thanks in large part to the gaping hole left behind by the departure of the NFL’s Rams. The city has already done a lot of the work in site selection and design, thanks to their failed attempt to keep the other football. After being publicly ridiculed by the team on its way out, St. Louis might be looking for a more loving sports relationship. MLS certainly sees an opportunity to replicate what the Sounders achieved in the wake of the relocation of the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics, and land at last in a long sought after market.

The big question in St. Louis is whether MLS will get to decide in the first place. In April of 2017, the city’s voters may be asked whether to subsidize $80 million in public funding for a stadium estimated to cost $200 million. Direct public funding of stadiums is a perverse business, and the city of St. Louis surely has pressing priorities. Whether voters will agree to shell out that kind of sum for MLS feels like something of a test case for the league. While St. Louis would be a fantastic location for MLS, it’s hard not to root against a plan like this. That being said, if the measure does pass, St. Louis is all but guaranteed one of the first two open spots.

3. Charlotte

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,537,990 (24th)
Growth (10-14): 6.83%
MSA Median Income: $46,119 (38th)
Fortune 1000: 15

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 2
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Not really. Atlanta is the closest.
Current Team? Possibly?
In Need of a Rebrand? Yeah.
Stadium Progress: Conceptual.

Last year, I made a bold prediction that Charlotte would be the league’s 28th team. Not much happened in the time since to really validate that opinion, but it’s clear that the city’s current team is thinking about it and so are potential majority owners. Charlotte has a number obvious advantages that led me to be so high on it in the past. The city is fast growing, relatively wealthy, a decent size, and has a powerful corporate presence. To the extent that geographic gaps still exist in the MLS map, Charlotte fills one of them in the southeast.

I rank Charlotte third on this list because it seems to me to be extremely likely to land one of the four spots up for grab in this round of expansion. But to be more precise, I think they’re likely to land either the 27th or 28th spot. They do not seem to be far enough into the process to compete for the 25th and 26th spots. The flaws in Charlotte’s bid are that we know next to nothing about it. The local team is not particularly popular, the prospective owners are just that—prospective. The Queen City (Cincinnati is also nicknamed this) is the best test case of my belief that ultimately demographic and geographic factors are most important to MLS expansion.

4. Cincinnati

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,208,450 (32nd)
Growth (10-14): 1.58%
MSA Median Income: $44,914 (55th)
Fortune 1000: 14

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 2
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Columbus (1 hour, 30 minutes)
Current Team? Yes.
In Need of a Rebrand? Doesn’t seem like it.
Stadium Progress: Suitable temporary stadium, but permanent home is conceptual.

No city or club has made such an impression this year as Cincinnati. As they were launching, more than a few people made fun of FC Cincinnati’s branding (FC literally stands for “Futbol Club”) and derpy video content. Then, the team took the field, and people started showing up to the games. And showing up. And showing up. The team averaged 17,296 fans a game, peaking at 24,376. Those are numbers that beat some MLS teams, and the league took notice. Garber visited a few weeks ago and the team’s fans made a show of support.

Like Sacramento, FC Cincinnati likely would join the league if it were up to a fan vote. But it’s not, and on the business side of things, Cincy is a less appealing pick. The metropolitan population is small—in fact, it would be the league’s smallest market. [EDIT: I’ve been partially corrected on this: the nearby CSA of Dayton, OH (1,077,665, −0.22%) may be merged with the Cincy CSA in the future, forming a much larger CSA. Clearly a plan for drawing fans from Dayton would be key to the success of FCC’s bid] It’s hardly growing, and the median income is middling. A strong corporate base is an advantage, but here, MLS may be concerned about FC Cincinnati hurting the existing team in Columbus. Does the potential for a rivalry make up for the conflict between two relatively small markets in a big and important state?

5. Detroit

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 5,315,251 (12th)
Growth (10-14): −0.7%
MSA Median Income: $49,160 (16th)
Fortune 1000: 17

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 4
Obvious MLS Rivalry: No, though Chicago, Columbus, and Toronto are close.
Current Team? No.
Stadium Progress: Conceptual.

Detroit is another city that has long been a target city for MLS. The market is the second largest where there is no current MLS club, and despite the well-known struggle of the city itself, the suburbs are extremely wealthy. The renegade NPSL start-up club Detroit City FC have gained accolades from across the soccer world, but they are not involved (fortunately and unfortunately) in the big money bid which has attracted MLS’ attention. This bid envisions a downtown stadium and entertainment complex at the site that currently houses a half-built (and unlikely to be completed) jail.

The Motor City is similar to St. Louis, in that a solid bid would automatically make it a favorite. But there are more question marks with Detroit’s bid than with St. Louis. The ownership group is smaller in Detroit, the land in question is currently owned by the county, and the stadium comes part of a larger planned development. All of these are complications. The city is also shrinking, the government cannot and should not spend money to support the stadium, and Detroit is the only one of the ten cities which already has all four other major sports teams. I’m suspicious of the Detroit bid, suspicious of government involvement in the land sale, and suspicious that MLS in Detroit makes enough sense anyway.

6. Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill (The Triangle)

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,075,126 (33rd)
Growth (10-14): 8.49%
MSA Median Income: $48,845 (18th)
Fortune 1000: 4

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 1
Obvious MLS Rivalry: No.
Current Team? Yes.
In Need of a Rebrand? Hah!
Stadium Progress: In the works, no public information.

Thanks to the ambitions of owner Steve Malik, North Carolina FC (née RailHawks) have publicly committed to bidding for MLS in this cycle. The Triangle is a weird, sprawling region, with no clear center and a nebulous identity. It makes sense, then, that Malik has rebranded his club to represent the state as a whole. It also makes sense operationally. It seems highly unlikely that MLS will place two teams in the Carolinas, at least in the foreseeable future. Thus, NCFC must first defeat Charlotte (who can be expected to push a pan-Carolinian identity), and claiming the bulk of the state as their own is a clear strategic imperative.

NCFC must also get their act together faster than Charlotte, who are still not well organized. Malik has indicated that his club is working swiftly on a stadium plan, and he could score an edge over the nascent Charlotte group in time. If the expansion process works faster, it will be to NCFC’s advantage. But if the Carolinas question slips to the second pair of this expansion cycle, and NCFC have not closed the door on a bid from Charlotte, then I suspect they’ll have an advantage. The Triangle simply doesn’t have as many people (it is the second smallest of the ten cities considered, and would be the smallest MLS market), nor as many corporations as MLS would like. The NHL Carolina Hurricanes’ struggles at the gate could also complicate The Triangle’s bid.

7. San Antonio

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,328,652 (30th)
Growth (10-14): 8.69%
MSA Median Income: $39,140 (126th)
Fortune 1000: 7

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 1
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Houston (2 hours, 45 minutes), Dallas (4 hours)
Current Team? Yes.
In Need of a Rebrand? Slight.
Stadium Progress: Already built, would need expansion.

San Antonio have fallen the furthest of any of the expansion hopefuls. While once they were considered a top-tier contender, other cities now look like surer bets. Last year, I wrote, “…the longer the expansion process becomes, the more San Antonio’s stock may fall.” As the expansion process has drawn out, I believe that observation has been borne out.

The Alamo City simply cannot compete demographically. Its population is small, it has few major corporations, and its population does not have a lot of spending power. San Antonio also has a complicated relationship in this process with Austin, which through sheer perception of trendiness is often mentioned in these articles. The Texan capital is just an hour from Toyota Field, where San Antonio FC play. But the two are considered separate metro areas, and (without living there) I can’t say I’ve seen much evidence of a shared identity between the two. San Antonio’s expansion hopes likely rest on their ability to sell a vision that will draw fans from Austin and capture both markets (a USL outpost might be involved?). The one advantage that San Antonio hold is their association with the NBA’s Spurs, who hold a reputation for being among the best run sports operations in the country. But after a year of ownership, it’s not entirely clear from the outside that the Spurs are determined to win this MLS race.

8. Tampa/St. Petersburg

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 2,915,582 (21st)
Growth (10-14): 4.75%
MSA Median Income: $37,406 (156th)
Fortune 1000: 7

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 3
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Orlando (1 hour, 45 minutes). Hide yer kids.
Current Team? Yes.
In Need of a Rebrand? Not needed, but trademark issues could be interesting.
Stadium Progress: Site controlled by the team, preliminary design complete.

The Tampa Bay area is unique among the markets discussed here in that it has already had an MLS team. But since the Mutiny folded in 2001, there’s been little talk of MLS returning. Bill Edwards, the owner of the USL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, is determined to change that, and has, in his fashion, indicated his determination to make a bid. Tampa Bay is among the largest metro areas where MLS is not currently playing, and Edwards has control of the stadium site and has engaged the stadium experts Populous to redesign Al Lang Stadium for MLS.

Yet I think Tampa have several issues to overcome. The city already has three major league teams, and is the least wealthy of all of the cities on this list (and in the country, only Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and El Paso have lower median incomes). As with several of the other teams, the proximity to another club is an issue here, though the potential for a good rivalry is the familiar counterbalance. Above all, I think Tampa Bay has an ownership problem. Edwards repeatedly clashed with the last league his team played in, and he is now suing them. He clashed with a local group to win control of his stadium. He’s been dogged by allegations of improper conduct. And I’m not convinced he’s wealthy enough for MLS, which means he’ll have to cede some control to minority partners. I think he’d also be well advised to take a step back and hire someone (Perry Van Der Beck?) to be the front man for this bid. There’s no evidence of that happening yet.

9. San Diego

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 3,263,431 (18th)
Growth (10-12): 5.34%
MSA Median Income: $47,067 (27th)
Fortune 1000: 5

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 1-2
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Second fiddle to both LA (2 hours) teams.
Current Team? No.
Stadium Progress: No idea.

Like St. Louis and Detroit, there is no doubt that San Diego is a city that MLS has eyed for a while. The size of the city’s region means that proximity to both LA teams is irrelevant, though San Diego’s rivalry with either would only ever be second best. But given its size, wealth, growth, and other factors like its Hispanic population, San Diego is undoubtedly an MLS target.

What sets this city behind the others is the complete lack of any public interest in expansion. If there is actual interest, we don’t know much about it. San Diego has another complication as well, which could break for the city or against it. The possible departure of the NFL’s Chargers could give MLS a hole to fill, but it may also have already soured residents against any kind of public help for stadium construction (which is a good thing for the world, but bad for MLS).

10. Nashville

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 1,788,434 (36th)
Growth (10-14): 6.95%
MSA Median Income: $44,223 (67th)
Fortune 1000: 10

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 2
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Vaguely Atlanta.
Current Team? Not really.
Stadium Progress: No idea

Nashville was by far the most surprising city to appear on MLS’ expansion interest list, and it’s easily the least likely city to actually achieve its ambition. The main reason is because Tennessee’s capital is small (Detroit’s metro area is over three times as large), and already hosts two other major league teams. The city is also only starting a USL team now, and that effort is not directly associated with the MLS effort (though it could be, in time, of course). If Nashville FC were a Cincinnati-like success, it might put the Music City on the MLS map. but why would it jump ahead of Cincinnati itself? Relative geographic isolation and Nashville’s reputation as a destination are its only two apparent advantages.

***

But wait… what about…

?. Miami

Demographic Factors:
Population (CSA): 6,558,143 (10th)
Growth (10-14): 6.35%
MSA Median Income: $38,632 (132nd)
Fortune 1000: 13

Popular Factors:
Existing Major League Teams: 4
Obvious MLS Rivalry: Orlando, probably.
Current Team? LOL.
Stadium Progress: LOLOL.

The elephant in the room is David Beckham’s hopeless MLS venture in Miami. At the present rate, the city will be consumed by the sea before Beckham builds his stadium. But patience is obviously wearing thin. Presumably if something doesn’t change this year, than it’s back to the drawing board. Moreso than Detroit or St. Louis, Miami is the one city that MLS wants. The city is huge, it’s growing, it’s a massive destination, and it’s the American gateway to Latin America and the Carribean. The league’s chances of one day playing host to Cristiano Ronaldo are evaporating every day that the Miami mess drags on.

Will Miami’s fiasco open up a fifth spot for one of the teams above? It might, though I wouldn’t bet on it. The league really, really, wants to be there. They wouldn’t have put up with this if Beckham had decided to take his team anywhere else. But hey, don’t count out the alternative.

***

Prediction time. MLS will seek to add smaller cities with proven fanbases in conjunction with major markets, so we’ll get two of each type of aspirant. The next two teams to join MLS will be Sacramento and St. Louis (if the referendum fails, the league and the ownership will find a way to either get around it or better yet, pay for the damn thing themselves). Two years later, MLS will add Charlotte and Cincinnati. The Detroit bid will fizzle over site control complications. San Diego won’t bid. The remaining teams will all find themselves in the second division, awaiting MLS’ inevitable bidding process for 29-30.

Plausible? Completely wrong? We’ll find out a lot more in the coming year.

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  • Clark Starr

    Heard an interview with Bruce Arena where he was asked what he’d change about MLS. Generally I’m not a big Arena fan, but his opinion that MLS needs to put the breaks on expansion is one I share. That said, I have a friend who lives in Cincy and he attends many of their current team’s games and says it’s hugely popular and would likely be successful. Me, I’m rockin’ a Louisville City shirt at the moment… Geez, I’m all over the place.

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      What reasons would Bruce give for limiting expansion? If it’s the dilution of the player pool argument, I don’t buy that one. Besides the obvious fact that MLS operates at the middle of a global market, I think that expansion has only improved the quality of the US player. More kids are inspired to play, more kids are inspired to go pro, and more kids are coming through elite academies. There are some teams whose academies are just now starting to produce players. So expansion or not, the US player pool is already on track to grow a bit. Expansion can take advantage of that in the near term, and continue to aid its growth in the long term.

      • Dave Laidig

        (all this takes years to achieve, but…) MLS needs more “home” teams for fans to root for. And more teams mean more games per weekend, which equals more TV content to sell and a bigger TV package. More TV money means more money for players (and academies, facilities, etc.). “Bigger” players increase quality of play.

        An unequal schedule is not a hurdle. League size and playoffs are not a problem in the US. Lets get more people hooked on live soccer via expansion, and let that translate into TV revenue and then players.

      • Caxamarca

        agree 100%, myself having grown up in the era of the original NASL explosion then implosion, saw first-hand how that affected player development. For a lot of us the lack of a D1 league made the decision to other sports clearer. There were the grinders from my area like Kinnear and Doyle that kept with it through the WSA and APSL, and a few that went to Europe but those were hard roads to find and hard roads to ride. Now there is a thriving league with academies, 2 new routes to soccer success in the US. Not to mention better lower divisions. I think the last point is that MLS will accommodate more foreign players on the rosters, and the Owners will begin to open up the check books more and more as better play will attract more attendance and viewership, the next TV contract will triple or quadruple with the MLS filling in the geography, it will continue to get better and better and the talent pool deeper not shallower.

    • bq4president

      I disagree. I think there are a large number of US soccer fans that don’t care about the MLS because there are is no local clubs for them. There are even more fans that don’t care about soccer at all, but would start paying attention if there were a local MLS club.

      Many people would rather wake up early every weekend to watch the BPL than to follow some LA2 team. Add more clubs, keep the wave of MLS fans growing.

  • John Herman

    I’m so glad we’re over this particular hurdle already.

  • Wes

    Saint Louis and Sacramento seem to be no-brainers. After that?
    But the real problem is: you have to do something to keep the season interesting with 28 teams. Way too big.

    • BJ

      >season interesting with 28 teams. Way too big.

      They will go full table against just division, and create a champions league from the season before (the MLS cup still, maybe). Removing playoffs as they are today, the fantasy mls version of pro/rel.

      Keeps top teams in MLS, but lets them play meaningful games during season against the other top teams. Allows MLS to expand roster for those top teams, even giving Garber bucks to those top teams, because they have ‘more games and travel’.

      Allows them to add more teams, add teams in the divisions till you get enough to break into 3 divisions. I think 3 divisions with total of 48 teams puts everything in MLS control and would work.

      • John Herman

        I’m not well-versed in the pro/rel arguments for MLS, but I remain really curious to see something like this happen to counteract tanking incentives or indifference by less successful clubs, and to reward ambition and good management by, say, Cincinnati or our own Loons.

        In this scenario, what happens to the draft? Maybe by the time something like pro/rel is in place the draft and college soccer as we know it have been replaced by academies? It certainly seems to be shrinking in importance for club success. But if it’s still around, is it restricted to higher division clubs or what?

        • BJ

          re: Draft: I don’t know. So few pay off and right now the college draft is pretty limited. Perhaps only the lowest of the lower teams get them, use them as trade bait (for Garber bucks) or build up a youth core. I would hesitate because in other leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA) the drafts do get gamed a bit from time to time. To prevent that perhaps it is a lottery of the lowest teams for draft order (I think nba does that).

          • John Herman

            Yeah, if the most promising and committed young players end up in academies, and if only lower division teams draft from college, then kids know what they’re getting into if they go the college route, and it seems like a more natural role for collegiate soccer. Fringe prospects, or guys who aren’t actually sure they want to play professionally (or just want to go to college a la Jordan Morris), go the college route, and then lower division teams mine them for talent that slips through the cracks. Meanwhile, mainstream players go all in earlier and the US system closes the technical ability gap.

    • nealrowland

      Too big? Have you not looked at every other major sports league in the US? Are you complaining about too many NFL teams too?

  • Brian Scott

    The NHL is in 31 cities what other 10 cities don’t already have a NHL team? IMO, the NHL doesn’t need to grow anymore except in Seattle and Quebec

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      The NHL recently rejected Quebec’s bid. Reportedly the Habs’ ownership hates Quebecor, who led the Quebec bid, and so they blocked it.

  • Adam

    Good take. Only thing you messed up on: San Jose has openly blessed Sacramento’s expansion bid- a few different times. Obviously a buyout behind closed doors, but a public endorsement nonetheless.

    Like you said, the Bay Area is a tough nut to crack, and a Sac team helps tie in the whole NorCal market

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      I’ll make a correction, thanks.

  • Caxamarca

    best expansion analysis I have read, very well done

  • Dave DuJour

    Has MLS given any indication of what their final club count would be? 2017 will have 22 teams. 2018 will have 23 (24 if anyone wants to count Miami). 28 teams by….when? At what point to they consider the league “complete”?

    • Alex Schieferdecker

      They’ve never said (wisely). But the largest US/CAN league is 32 teams, so you’ve got to figure that they won’t go beyond that, unless there’s some kind of alternative league structure in which teams move up and dow—

      [static]

  • goldsphinix

    the biggest reason the MLS has not made inroads into the Bay area, is they have the team in San Jose. As a former San Fran native, people loathe having to drive all the way down to San Jose. the same will be true of sacramento. the only way to effectively capture the Bay area market, imo, is to put a team directly in the Bay (probably impossible given costs), or in the east bay (oakland). north bay, east bay, and san fran residents are driving down to san jose or up to sac town for the mls. the money’s in san fran, put the team there if u want those fans.
    #mytwocents

    • Caxamarca

      there is plenty, plenty of money in the South Bay aka the Silicone Valley, the Quakes have actually sold out their stadium, the people just haven’t been showing up, precisely because of the disposable income. Bottom line, they want to watch a winner. Sac will give us a good regional rival to get excited about. Plus I predict that the Sac fans will travel really well, especially to San Jo. The biggest disappointment has been the stadium location, it is not an attraction, the stadium however is beautiful, winning i.e. playoffs will cure all that.

  • goldsphinix

    as someone who grew up in Charlotte i’ve always thought they needed a team there. its a no brainer given the geographic location of the city, large latino population, and city growth (lots of young professionals). could brand it as Carolina FC and capture both the NC and SC market like the NFL does w/ the panthers. it was stupid to put the NHL team in Durham. but that has to do w/ state politics and the durham area being jelly of charlotte’s size, prosperity, and geographic location at the expense of sensible decisions. that idiot owner of the Carolina Hurricanes attempted to copy the Panthers and label the hockey team as being representative of both North and South Carolina, but who is he kidding. Durham is almost in Virginia. South Carolina’s are not going to identify (or drive to see) w/ a team in Durham. the panthers have a rabid fan base of people in both north and south carolina (for obvious reason). i do hope the mls realizes this and does not sanction an MLS team in Durham. would be a huge mistake. additionally ppl in charlotte do not drive to Durham to see the hurricanes. again, charlotte is the major city, and the people there in many ways feel entitled. you want their support, put a team in the city.
    ironically, people from charlotte will drive to the research triangle area to catch a Tarheel game. go figure. ;p

  • bq4president

    I would swap Charlotte and Raleigh (aka The Triangle) on your list. First off, while marketed together, Raleigh and Durham are too very distinct cities, and Raleigh is the centerpiece to the NCFC bid. The team as a whole will draw in crowds from surrounding areas, which includes Durham. The Charlotte metro may be a larger than the Raleigh-Durham metro and have more large corporations (re: banks), but Raleigh-Durham is a growing tech and innovation hub, with a higher average income than CLT.

    Charlotte has the Panthers and Bobcats (and NASCAR) which will compete for consumer spend. Raleigh has the the Hurricanes, which haven’t done well, but it is the south–most people don’t care about hockey. The real financial competitors will be Duke and UNC basketball.

    Culture wise, and this should be a big factor, Raleigh and Durham have strong soccer cultures, while Charlotte does not. The youth system in the Triangle is extremely well established. NCFC also started a school known as the Accelerator School last year. Charlotte is well behind in this regard. You might be able to “develop” their culture, but it’s ready made in the Triangle.

    Finally, the NCFC owner is a local entrepreneur and a huge soccer fan. CLT’s team would be run by owners that care more about their primary business (NASCAR), and that has to count for something. If I’m the MLS I want an owner who is truly dedicated to growing the sport in the US, not just a rich guy who wants a new play thing.

    All that said, there may be a few in or outside Charlotte that think they are the logical choice, but if you visit both places for enough time you will see that Raleigh is the better option for the sport.

    • Kevin Kathrotia

      Nice dig, calling them the Bobcats.

    • Nick

      I see that it keeps getting mentioned about the Hurricanes not drawing well, but like you pointed out, they are a hockey team in the south. Soccer is big here. Anyone with any knowledge has heard of the UNC women’s soccer team. Also, the Railhawks, while not even overly successful, still routinely sell out their stadium. People here love soccer.

  • Jim Williams

    Would love to see a team in the Cleveland area. Too bad the first time it was attempted we had a pair of idiots who wanted everyone else to pay for it and botched up the effort. Lots of talk, zero results.

  • JCS

    Great read!