Expansion Thoughts

Yesterday we posted a poll to determine what you think the best candidate destination would be for Major League Soccer’s 20th team.  The overwhelming winner was Minnesota, and although an e-mail and Twitter campaign may have significantly contributed to the success of the Twin City area, there are definite upsides to moving MLS up North.   Here is what I wrote in December of 2009 about the prospects of a team in Minnesota.
“At a recent Metro Sports Commission Meeting, Chair Paul Thatcher suggested that the Vikings are interested in bringing an MLS team to the Twin Cities.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t offer much more detail than that.  Minnesota has never been a top contender for an MLS team, despite a successful run at the lower rungs of American soccer.  Stadiums are being built in the State, but it seems unlikely that MLS will find its way to Minnesota in the near term.”

Does that still ring true?

The second place finisher was New York2, clearly the favorite of the league office.  The dream of the New York Cosmos continues to dangle in front of league fans.  However, the Cosmos are not the only option.  Recall that Commissioner Garber has repeatedly stated that he believes the Wilpons would make excellent soccer owners and noted that Citi Field had hosted a WFC match the night before the ASG. He also noted that a Wilpon family rep was in attendance at the ASG. The Wilpons received some great news this week when they learned that their potential exposure in the Madoff suits could be considerably less than the previously reported $1 billion.

Atlanta was a surprising third place.  As we have previously stated, Arthur Blank (the owner of the Atlanta Falcons) has long been rumored as a potential league owner but there has long been suspicions that the city would be unable to support a team.

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5 Responses

  1. I put in Atlanta because I was looking for an option in the Southeast, where the league needs a presence. Had I decided to go off the board, I would have looked at a city with less pro sports saturation in the region, such as Nashville, Birmingham, the Triangle, maybe Louisville. MLS could be the big fish in a small pro sports pond in these places, the way Salt Lake and Portland have. That can only help with Dan identification with the team.

  2. Looks like the poll was highjacked by the staff at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. Give me a break, I love Minnesota and all but you’re WAY behind NY, Florida, St. Louis, even Las Vegas! If Minnesotans want MLS soccer, they need to move to a city with MLS – soz guys.

  3. Minnesota team playing in an NFL stadium? They should have a soccer specific stadium built if they join the league

  4. Each expansion opportunity has three components, evaluation of a potential business partner (the ownership group), evaluation of the proposed market (likelihood of success for the soccer team), and the stadium (likelihood of maximizing the market’s potential). And with 15 U.S. markets already taken, there are no more easy, obvious choices. Each bid will have strengths and weaknesses, and only the league knows which weaknesses it will accept, and which strengths are most important to its development plan.

    That said, Minnesota deserves to be near the top in the conversation. Minnesota has an interested, viable owner and a stadium plan seeking approval, which is as far along on these items (or farther) than any competing markets. The stadium plan includes features to accommodate a MLS team, and keeping these features in the plan has risked the overall deal for the Vikings, and cost the Wilfs an extra 20+M for their private contribution. And the market itself compares favorably as well; 16th largest metro (15th for TV coverage), higher household income than any competitor (suggesting more disposable income), better business environment, stable economy and population and a long history of soccer support (as well as for other sports teams).

    In my opinion, NY represents an effort to infuse the league with some cash and to get a 20th team up and running quickly; all valid business justifications. However, the league has earned itself a reputation for smart growth. And strategic growth for the league would suggest adding a team in a new market, with a viable owner and stadium plan. For ownership groups, it seems like NY (at least one of them), ATL, MN are strongest. For stadiums, it seems like NY and MN are closest to getting deals. And for markets: well, that’s what we all argue about.

    Of the choices, NY represents a short-term gain (and requires a thorough analysis of the NYRB situation to avoid harming the league), the opportunity cost of forgoing strategic growth in a new market, all the while reinforcing the perception that soccer is a regional sport limited to the coasts. Keeping with past MLS efforts, the best choice seems to be to opt for strategic growth. And if the choice isn’t Minnesota, I would still prefer team 20 to be outside NY so that the league will continue to grow.

  5. Calgary is my choice. MLS should grow to 4 strong Canadian teams, so they can then break off into a 7-team league plus Minn, Rochester, and Detroit. Oh yeah, and no salary cap would certainly make things interesting. I see 5 Canadian teams supported w/35k-40k fans.

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