Eight MLS expansion contenders

Eight cities that could be in the running for an MLS club.

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Where Will MLS Expand Next?

by on 7 December 2015

On Saturday, the day before the MLS Cup Final, the league made official what just about everyone knew to be inevitable. MLS would expand beyond 24 teams. After the runaway success of the last round of expansion, it was clear that there was more untapped interest in MLS.

The most notable thing about the recently announced future expansion is that there is no timetable for it. Unlike the previous round, in which Commissioner Don Garber set an explicit goal to reach 24 teams by 2020, this time around MLS has given itself plenty of time. That only makes sense. While interest in joining MLS is sky high, the league itself can afford to be increasingly choosy.

There is a simple and brutal logic to the four teams that will be entering MLS in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Los Angeles is necessary to close the book on the failed Chivas USA experiment. Miami is the largest metro area in the country without an MLS team, and has the added benefit of being an internationally famous destination. Atlanta is the second largest city without an MLS team, the primate city of a major American region, and also internationally known thanks to the 1996 Olympics. And while Minneapolis-Saint Paul isn’t as globally famous, it’s the fifth wealthiest city in the country, the primate city of a huge (if sparsely populated) hinterland, and a major corporate center.

With these four markets checked off, it seems fair to say that there are no more essential locations for MLS anymore. The league stretches the length and breadth of the US and Canada, with just a few clubs and markets truly struggling. The league’s major geographic holes (the American South and North) have been filled in the latest rounds of expansion. There is a chance then, that the path from 24 to 28 might wind through some cities which come by their soccer clubs organically and where the primarily selling points can be found in the stands and not on the census fact sheet.

There’s a ready-made example for this type of expansion in the Sacramento Republic. The USL’s flagship club, the Republic have been drawing sell-out five digit crowds since their debut two years ago, and won a USL title in their first year. They have the full political support of their city (including slimeball mayor Kevin Johnson), a detailed stadium plan, and a large group of investors.

Yet MLS looked Sacramento off during the last round of expansion, probably in large part because the Sacramento market could not offer what the other contenders (specifically Minnesota and Miami) could. Sacramento is a larger city than most people know, with a solid rate of growth and a decent median income. But the city’s economy is incredibly dependent on government, and the city astonishingly has no Fortune 1000 companies. Pitted against a strong bid from Minneapolis-Saint Paul, which has more people, faster growth, a higher median income, and 26 Fortune 1000 companies, it’s not hard to see how MLS made its choice.

This being said, Sacramento have made such a compelling case that they seem poised to join MLS. Garber has said, on more than one occasion, that he expects the Republic will join the league. They lead the pack for the next round of expansion. But I’m skeptical that other clubs will be able to make their case as compellingly as Sacramento, or that other cities will be so successful at making a case for themselves in spite of adverse economic or demographic facts. I generally believe that the ultimate determinants of the next expansion slots will be the same that they always are.

To this end, I’ve handicapped sixteen of the plausible contenders for the next four spots in MLS. As a general rule, the list is in order of probability, but in truth, beyond the first few names, it’s all muddled. For each city, I’ve collected a few relevant points of data, recapped the city’s current soccer status and expansion flirtations, and attempted to identify key weaknesses in their theoretical expansion bids. I haven’t factored in the plans of other leagues, so don’t complain that I’ve consigned the NASL to a bleak and dark future bereft of expansion opportunities. This article looks only at MLS expansion, from the perspective of MLS. The cosmic justice of the soccer universe is not considered.

Enough exposition. Lets look at the cities!

The Favorites

Sacramento
Population (CSA): 2,462,722 (24th)
Growth (10-12): 1.99%
MSA Median Income: $46,106 (40th)
Fortune 1000: 0
Existing Major League Teams: 1

As mentioned above, Sacramento are the heavy favorite to be awarded the 25th expansion spot in MLS. They are further along in their planning than three teams already admitted to the league. But the frustration for fans of the Republic might be how long they have to wait. Even though MLS has indicated that it expects to admit Sacramento eventually, the league may want to add them along with another team to prevent having an unbalanced schedule. Thus, ready-and-waiting Sacramento may be forced to sit on the sidelines until another bid matures. Even worse for fans of the Republic, MLS might feel the need to take a break from expansion years after admitting four teams over the 2017-18 seasons. That could delay Sacramento’s admittance even further.

In the end, fans of the Republic ought to be proud of how far they’ve come. Before the team burst onto the scene in 2014, [i]nobody[/i] was talking about Sacramento as an expansion candidate. That’s all changed now. But it might take a few more years to be official.

St. Louis
Population (CSA): 2,900,605 (21st)
Growth (10-12): 0.28%
MSA Median Income: $44,437 (65th)
Fortune 1000: 18
Existing Major League Teams: 2-3

St. Louis is one of the great enduring mysteries of American soccer. Historically the nation’s greatest soccer city, St. Louis still has a love for the game, if the recent USMNT World Cup qualifier in Busch Stadium was any indication. Yet MLS expansion has never quite materialized, despite being a target for years. A previous lower division club failed in 2011, and a new USL team has only just come along, drawing just under 5,000 fans a game.

What’s remarkable about St. Louis, given this past, is how little movement there seems to be with regard to getting a team in that city. Though de-industrialization and residential segregation have adversely affected the city since the middle of the twentieth century, St. Louis remains among the country’s largest metropolitan areas, and a number of well-known companies are headquartered in the region. A St. Louis team would immediately have intriguing rivalries with cross-state (technically) rivals Kansas City, and historic rivals Chicago. This is why St. Louis is constantly brought up in the expansion discussion despite no sign of an owner or stadium. And it might be the one market remaining that MLS would actually wait for.

The wild-card in this scenario are the NFL’s Rams. One of three teams mentioned as potentially moving to Los Angeles, if the Rams left they could leave a gaping hole for MLS to fill in the city, similar to how the Seattle Sounders came into a sports scene reeling from the loss of the SuperSonics. But at the same time, the most recent MLS-St. Louis discussion has circled around sharing a proposed Rams stadium. Either way, the fates of football and football in St. Louis seem closely intertwined. Expect MLS to have its ear close to the ground in this city.

San Antonio
Population (CSA): 2,234,003 (31st)
Growth (10-12): 4.27%
MSA Median Income: $39,140 (126th)
Fortune 1000: 7
Existing Major League Teams: 1

After Sacramento, San Antonio is the next team in line when it comes to having the key ownership and stadium boxes checked. The NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions‘s low-capacity soccer-specific-stadium was recently sold to the city of San Antonio and Bexar County, while the San Antonio Spurs are believed to have the right to field a USL team in that stadium. It’s unclear if the Scorpions will continue to play, and may make way for the joint Spurs-City team. The intention of these two partners is clearly to take a team (quite likely not the Scorpions but a new, entirely rebranded outfit) to MLS, which is something that the well-intentioned former ownership did not have the clout to do. After getting its name in the conversation for the last round of expansion, San Antonio appears poised to make a complete and compelling bid this time around. A San Antonio team would be the third in Texas, creating an interesting rivalry in the nation’s second largest state.

There are clear difficulties with San Antonio as a destination, however. The Alamo City would be the smallest metro area in the league, the second least wealthy (only Miami has a lower median income), and have the second or third fewest Fortune 1000 companies (only Portland and Sacramento have fewer). The team also seems basically locked into Toyota Field, which was designed to be expandable, but is also outside of the central city (though close to the airport, and San Antonio does not have any fixed, high-capacity public transit to take advantage of anyway). These are not fatal flaws, but the longer the expansion process becomes, the more San Antonio’s stock may fall. Its primary advantage is that it is better prepared than most other cities, and the helpful association with the Spurs, who must surely be among the best run organizations in American sports. But demographically, it may be harder for San Antonio to compete, and if other cities get their act together before MLS decides, I wouldn’t be surprised to see San Antonio passed by.

 

The Biggest Markets

Detroit
Population (CSA): 5,311,449 (12th)
Growth (10-12): ?0.14%
MSA Median Income: $49,160 (16th)
Fortune 1000: 17
Existing Major League Teams: 4

Detroit is the largest city without an MLS club, and one of only two cities with teams in the four other major sports leagues but not MLS. The city was among the 1994 World Cup hosts. People reading this article will likely know about Detroit City FC, a plucky and popular NPSL club whose success has led to continual speculation that they will move up to USL, NASL, or even MLS.

Given its size and prominence in the larger American sports landscape, it’s perhaps surprising that Detroit has not been strongly considered as an MLS expansion favorite in recent years—with the exception of occasional implausible promises from developers to put a team in the (soon to be demolished) Pontiac Silverdome. Or perhaps it’s not at all surprising. Detroit is a profoundly troubled city. The legacy of America’s greatest urban crisis runs deep. The population continues to shrink, the city government has only just emerged from a massive municipal bankruptcy, and segregation, disinvestment, a poor public services continue to cripple the city. These factors make a decent case on business and moral grounds for MLS overlooking Detroit in expansion. The league cannot and should not count on any government support. Meanwhile, private groups looking to invest in the city ought to consider more important ventures than a fifth major sports team in a city that is struggling to provide essential services to its population.

Phoenix
Population (CSA): 4,329,534 (14th)
Growth (10-12): 3.26%
MSA Median Income: $44,752 (59th)
Fortune 1000: 13
Existing Major League Teams: 4

Phoenix is the other American city with football, baseball, basketball, and hockey teams, but no top-level soccer club. It continues to grow quickly, and has a high rate of growth and a middle-of-the-pack median income. The Valley of the Sun has a decent seeming USL organization, Arizona United SC which drew over 3,000 fans last year.

The city appears naturally on expansion lists because of its size. But there has been very little substantive discussion of Phoenix as an expansion city. Arizona United has not made a serious push to be considered as a candidate for a higher league, nor has its attendance (middling) or success on the field (twice missed the playoffs) recommended it. Phoenix’s climate is also warmer than even Dallas or Houston, and there’s a reason why MLB’s Diamondbacks play in a retractable roof stadium with a ridiculous air-conditioning system.

Cleveland
Population (CSA): 3,497,711 (16th)
Growth (10-12): ?0.51%
MSA Median Income: $42,215 (85th)
Fortune 1000: 14
Existing Major League Teams: 3

Once upon a time, Cleveland was on the threshold of being awarded an MLS expansion team. But that plan hit a few snags along the way, none more fatal than the death of the prospective owner. The Mistake on the Lake hasn’t received a great deal of attention since.

Cleveland is a large city with a solid number of large corporations. But Ohio has an odd pattern with sports teams, which seems designed to prevent competition. Cleveland and Cincinnati, at the top and bottom of the state, share MLB and NFL teams. Columbus, in the middle, offers NHL, MLS, and the one true statewise love, Ohio State football. As a result, it doesn’t seem like Cleveland has the kind of rivalry with Columbus that might make it an appealing choice for MLS, nor is there a team in Pittsburgh to play off of either. Currently, Cleveland does not have a professional lower division team. With Cleveland’s population still falling, it’s hard to see the city being a truly appealing destination for MLS. This is another city where its striking how little discussion there is about the possibility of expansion, given its size and history, but where the contemporary issues surrounding de-industrialization perhaps offer some explanation. MLS has had very little to do with the American rust-belt, which makes some sense if you see sports league expansion as a function of American population trends.

San Diego
Population (CSA): 3,177,063 (18th)
Growth (10-12): 2.64%
MSA Median Income: $47,067 (27th)
Fortune 1000: 5
Existing Major League Teams: 1-2

San Diego is one of the most mentioned cities with regard to MLS expansion, but again, the talk is mostly conceptual at this stage. Like Cleveland, and fairly unique for the cities on this list, San Diego does not have a professional club of any stripe. At least, it doesn’t have a professional American club. Across the border, the Mexican city of Tijuana boasts a Liga MX team, and it’s often said that Xolos are the soccer team of San Diego. With no chance of MLS returning to the Chivas USA road, it might take a unique organization to crack the San Diego market.

The one opening that MLS might have is if the NFL’s Chargers were to move to Los Angeles. But unlike with St. Louis, the team wouldn’t be moving that far away. Would the departure of the football team create a void large enough for an MLS team to steal the hearts of the city? It seems less plausible here than in St. Louis.

The Up and Comers

Charlotte
Population (CSA): 2,454,619 (25th)
Growth (10-12): 3.32%
MSA Median Income: $46,119 (38th)
Fortune 1000: 15
Existing Major League Teams: 2

In isolation, Charlotte must be considered one of the betting favorites for MLS on demographics alone. Already the nation’s 25th largest city, Charlotte is growing rapidly. Already wealthier than most metropolitan areas, Charlotte is headquarters of a number of large companies, most notably Bank of America. It is the second largest financial center in the country. Geographically, Charlotte sits at the core of a populous region that is not represented in MLS, close enough to Atlanta to form a rivalry, but not enough to cross fanbases.

The only problem with Charlotte from an MLS perspective is that there has been very little movement in the city’s professional soccer scene. The USL’s Charlotte Independence began play in 2015, but they drew only 1,800 fans a game, and were characterized by the kind of mismanagement that only sorted out a stadium situation until weeks before the start of the season. Of all the NASL and USL clubs, the Independence seem one of the least likely to strive for a higher league. Something would have to change with the Independence or someone new would need to enter the picture if the city is to have a shot at MLS.

Indianapolis
Population (CSA): 2,310,360 (29th)
Growth (10-12): 1.93%
MSA Median Income: $45,548 (47th)
Fortune 1000: 9
Existing Major League Teams: 2

Save only Sacramento, no lower division club has made a more impressive showing off the field than the Indy Eleven. With the expert leadership of Peter Wilt, the Eleven have brought in sell-out crowds to watch a terrible team putter around a really bad turf field for two seasons. Patience about the results may be wearing thin, but the fanbase is clearly there and clearly passionate. In addition, the Eleven have twice made bids to the State of Indiana to receive help in funding their own soccer-specific stadium. Though unsuccessful both times, the Eleven were close this past year, and have undoubtedly helped raise the profile of soccer in the city.

With so much interest in the team, and with plans for a stadium, it’s no surprising that the Eleven have frequently been mentioned as an MLS team in waiting. While the team has repeatedly expressed a commitment to the NASL, we know from experience with Minnesota how to parse this language. The Eleven would surely leap at the chance to join MLS. Their bid would be helped if they had a stadium already approved, but having MLS rumors would also surely help their stadium bid. The primary issue for Indy is the wealth of their current ownership, which seems barely enough to keep the NASL squad competitive. But of all the issues that face MLS expansion clubs, that is probably the most easily overcome. Indianapolis’ size is within the wheelhouse of this round of expansion, the city has a moderate median income despite few large corporations, and only two competing major league teams.

Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg
Population (CSA): 2,842,878 (22nd)
Growth (10-12): 2.14%
MSA Median Income: $37,406 (156th)
Fortune 1000: 7
Existing Major League Teams: 3

Of all of the markets in which MLS has dabbled, Tampa Bay is truly the only outright failure. Despite being the first winner of the MLS regular season, the Tampa Bay Mutiny never drew large crowds, failed to find local ownership, and were folded along with the Miami Fusion in 2001. This alone is a massive strike against the city’s chances of getting another chance in MLS. The proximity of Orlando (which seems to want to be Florida’s team) also is a big stumbling block. While the city’s population is respectable and it is growing, it’s hard to imagine MLS relishing competing against three other major league teams in a market with few major corporations and a remarkably low median income (one of the most surprising things I learned while researching these cities).

Problematic as these demographic facts are, Tampa Bay can point to an increasingly well-supported lower division club; the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Owner Bill Edwards has been a controversial figure, battling several lawsuits and frustrating fans by firing a popular manager and general manager in the middle of the 2015 season. But his investments in the club’s facilities, roster, and marketing cannot be denied. The club increased its attendance in the 2015 season and seems on track for continued, solid growth. Edwards seems to be an ambitious owner, and it would not be surprising if the club made a bid for MLS. But it would surprise me if it were accepted.

Austin
Population (CSA): 1,834,303 (36th)
Growth (10-12): 6.88%
MSA Median Income: $48,950 (18th)
Fortune 1000: 1
Existing Major League Teams: 0

Austin is routinely elevated into the upper tier of MLS candidate cities and it’s difficult to tell why. The city has seen two versions of the Austin Aztex fail. In fact, the first iteration left Austin for Orlando specifically because they judged (correctly it seems) that the latter was a more likely destination for MLS!

Yet the Austin to MLS concept persists. The city benefits from two parallels to notable soccer success stories. Like Portland, it’s known as a trendy city for millennials, with a high student population, a high quality of life, and the world-famous SXSW Music Festival. Like Sacramento, Austin is a small but ambitious state capital interested in carving out its own reputation in one of the country’s biggest states. Even better, there would be no competition for MLS in Austin. The metro area is the second largest in the US with no professional sports (although the University of Texas must count for something here).

But the fundamentals just aren’t there for Austin like they were in other cities. The Aztex drew just over 3,000 fans a game and are now on hiatus again. They’ve pledged to find a new stadium situation for 2017, and perhaps they’ll come up with something. But perhaps not. And if they do, will they be able to improve their attendance and galvanize the kind of support that Sacramento has stirred up? Does the ownership have the ambition? And if not, who will step up?

The final issue for Austin to overcome is the potential of a San Antonio team. The two cities are just over an hour apart. While there’s certainly rivalry potential, (I can’t speak to any existing rivalry between the two cities) there’s also some risk here.

Las Vegas
Population (CSA): 2,247,056 (30th)
Growth (10-12): 2.35%
MSA Median Income: $42,468 (80th)
Fortune 1000: 7
Existing Major League Teams: 0-1

The nation’s largest city without a professional sports franchise, there’s probably a good reason for this. Las Vegas is simply a unique city. The only “major” sports league to venture into Las Vegas was the XFL (remember that?), where the “Outlaws” were fifth of eight in attendance. But the City of Sin seems likely to get its first chance to become a major league city with the latest NHL expansion. If hockey succeeds in the desert, expect other leagues to look at the Las Vegas market anew. If hockey fails…

Las Vegas actually presented to the MLS board during the last round of expansion. I’m still not sure what to think about their candidacy. Nobody really took it seriously, and the league swiftly eliminated the city from contention. The bid was spearheaded by the Cordish Companies, an “entertainment district” developer who have a habit of swooping in, building a glorified urban mall, and leaving taxpayers with the bill. Attempts to bring the Las Vegas MLS deal to a ballot also seemed certain to scuttle the whole effort, which is not a great sign.

I’m deeply skeptical that MLS will consider Las Vegas without having seen either lower division soccer or NHL hockey succeed wildly in the city.

Nashville
Population (CSA): 1,845,235 (35th)
Growth (10-12): 3.18%
MSA Median Income: $44,223 (67th)
Fortune 1000: 10
Existing Major League Teams: 2

Nashville don’t have a professional team and are one of the only markets in the US and Canada to not have a team in the original NASL at any point. So with zero soccer history, the Music City is a bit of a longshot for MLS expansion.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t start now. The city does have an NPSL outfit, and the success of Chattanooga FC might speak to a larger soccer renaissance in Tennessee. Nashville is a growing city. Although it would be the smallest city in MLS if it joined, it’s central location might allow it to claim to be a club that represents the entire state (fans in Louisville might make a similar argument) like the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. It’s corporate scene isn’t massive, but I can’t be the only one who’d love to see Bridgestone (who have their NA headquarters in the city) battle it out with Continental for the MLS tire crown.

Pittsburgh
Population (CSA): 2,661,369 (23rd)
Growth (10-12): 0.02%
MSA Median Income: $37,467 (153rd)
Fortune 1000: 15
Existing Major League Teams: 3

Pittsburgh was the largest city I left out of the original article, largely because it wasn’t a big as some of the other cities, nor has there really been any buzz about the city. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL announced their intention to try to join MLS in 2013, but their bankruptcy in 2015 probably means that their dreams aren’t feasible, at least for this round of expansion. They draw about 2,600 fans a game to a centrally located, small, and picturesque soccer specific stadium.

As an expansion location, the Steel City doesn’t offer MLS a great deal. It’s barely growing and median incomes are very low. Despite a number of large companies, Pittsburgh is still not exactly booming (see my earlier comments about de-industrial cities). While Pittsburgh often appears near the top of price-sensitive lists of “Best Cities for Millennials”, I’m not sure the city has the hip cache to really sway MLS decision makers.

Up North

Calgary
Population (CMA): 1,214,839 (5th in Canada)
Growth (06-11, 5 Year): 12.6%
MSA Median Income: $69,912 (2nd in CA, Converted to USD)
Fortune 1000: N/A
Existing Major League Teams: 2

MLS currently exists in the three largest markets in Canada, and with talk of a Canadian League someday forming a new second division, it’s possible that MLS expansion up north is finished. But it’s remotely plausible that the league might consider a bid from a fourth Canadian city.

Calgary has the best chance to be that city, and some in the city at least are dreaming about it. I think that if Calgary were an American city, it might already have a club. While its metro area population is dwarfed by the American contenders, that population is concentrated in a much smaller area. The city is Canada’s fastest growing and rapidly diversifying. Perhaps most importantly, Calgary has a median income that blows its American rivals out of the water. The city has grown and accumulated a good deal of wealth thanks to the oil boom. Recent market trends notwithstanding, Calgary has the financial clout to support a team.

If Calgary bids, it would be more formidable than most Americans may think. But will it bid? The city has next to no soccer history, nor has any professional team developed despite the potential challenge of a rivalry with nearby FC Edmonton (who, by the way, have struggled to draw fans). If there is interest for professional soccer in Calgary, it’s not manifested itself yet.

Ottawa
Population (CMA): 1,236,324 (4th in Canada)
Growth (06-11, 5 Year): 9.1%
MSA Median Income: $69,934 (1st in CA, Converted to USD)
Fortune 1000: N/A
Existing Major League Teams: 2

What about Canada’s capital? Ottawa is about the same size as Calgary and also growing quickly. It is just as wealthy as well. Even better, the city already has a profession soccer team. The Ottawa Fury were a moderate success in their opening NASL season, but largely overshadowed by Indianapolis. But in their second season, the Fury took center stage. They nearly won the league table, and reached the final. In the process, the team saw their home attendances swell, and drew over 9,000 to their playoff semi-final against Minnesota (attendance is usually capped at 8,000). To boot, the Fury have a lot of room to grow to fill TD Place, their stadium which also hosts the CFL’s Redblacks (same owner) and hosted some of the 2015 Women’s World Cup games, which drew over 20,000 for each game. The turf field is the only flaw with an overall major league stadium.

An Ottawa team would have rivalries with Montreal (just two hours away) and Toronto (four hours). While the team ownership has not made any moves towards bidding for MLS, the team might start fielding that question if attendances continue to grow and the performance on the field continues to be stellar.

The Derbies

New York 3/Long Island/Cosmos
Population (CSA/3): 7,820,700
Growth (10-12): 1.67%
MSA Median Income: $59,799 (2nd)
Fortune 1000: 114
Existing Major League Teams: 11

Almost as soon as MLS had announced a second team in NY in the form of NYCFC, there were people wondering when the Big Apple would get a third. That third team, of course, would be the New York Cosmos.

The concept is fairly decent. It’s natural to divide the city and its suburbs into three parts. Give the Red Bulls New Jersey. Give NYCFC the Bronx, Westchester, and Connecticut. Give the Cosmos Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Let them all fight over Manhattan. Each of these domains is more than large enough to support its own team.

This is all assuming a few things. The first is that the Cosmos will be successful in building a stadium, whether in Elmont or elsewhere. Given their two year lack of success and competition from NYCFC, that might be a tall order. The second is that the rift between the Cosmos and MLS could be healed by mutual business interests. That’s debatable, but far from implausible. If in a few years the Cosmos or the NASL are struggling, expect this conversation to re-emerge. But if the Cosmos find a permanent home and some stability and the NASL continues to grow, the idea of a third NYC outfit seems further off.

At the very least, this seems unlikely to happen in the next round of expansion.

Toronto 2/Hamilton/Ti-Cats
Population (CMA/2): 2,791,532 (Toronto, 1st in Canada) or 721,053 (Hamilton, 9th in Canada)
Growth (06-11, 5 Year): 9.2% (T), 4.1 (H)
MSA Median Income: $50,870 (Toronto, 21st in CA, Converted to USD) 57,308 (Hamilton, 11th in CA, Converted to USD)
Fortune 1000: N/A
Existing Major League Teams: 6

MLS already has two teams in New York and Los Angeles. Toronto could surely support a second team as well, or else Hamilton, which is just 45 minutes away and is something of a competitor and something of a suburb. Hamilton already has a CFL team, the Tiger-Cats, and an owner who was rumored earlier this year to be pursuing an NASL team. But while that has evidently fallen through, there’s certainly room in the Toronto-Hamilton market for another team. They’d be able to play in Tim Horton’s Field, the new Ti-Cats stadium, which is 49 minutes from BMO. How’s that for a rivalry? I have no idea what fans of the Ti-Cats and the Argos think of each other, but there must be the seeds of something there.

***

If you made it to the end, congratulations. Sixteen cities, sixteen mostly speculative attempts to piece them into the MLS puzzle. If we’ve learned anything about MLS expansion it’s that things can move quickly. No doubt this article will be quickly out of date, and no doubt a city not mentioned (Nashville? Pittsburgh? Raleigh? Cincinnati? OKC? Louisville?) will enter the picture at some point, and no doubt most of these cities will never enter the conversation beyond this page. Forecasting is hard, and forecasting MLS is impossible. I’m forced to choose, I’m going for Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, and finally Charlotte. But there’s a lot that could still change.

Data notes: My source for most of this data is the US Census, as cataloged by Wikipedia. The population estimates use Combined Statistical Areas as their geography. The median income comes from the largest Metropolitan Statistical Area geography. I’ve used this plausible looking source to find corporation data. My estimates for Canadian median incomes are guaranteed to be inaccurate, because the current exchange rate was applied.

Thoughts? Corrections? Share them below!

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