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Slicing through the clutter of MLS expansion talk

Nov 27, 2012, 11:13 AM EDT

MLS map

This is as good a time as any, I suppose, to remind everyone of the harsh realities when it comes to MLS expansion.

It’s a touchy subject, because so many fans in some wonderful soccer markets – underserved by MLS, it must be said – would love to see a top flight club land in their city. Thus, they tend to be understandably emotional about it.

And I would love to have better news. But the bottom line on expansion talk is this: it’s just talk … at least until some well-heeled investor group with barrels full of currency gets into the real nittygritty with MLS brass, and a genuine stadium plan is put on the table for careful examination.

Until then, we’re all just flapping our little soccer gums in dreamy delight. We may as well be talking about free beer – because it’s just as much a fantasy.

Major League Soccer needs to be in the American southeast. We all know so. I would love to see a little more MLS in the Midwest, in St. Louis or the Twin Cities of Minnesota, for instance. Out West, San Diego would be swell.

(MORE: Further talk on MLS expansion … on Orlando specifically)

But it takes so very much more than coloring in the map.

So when fans ask about Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, San Antonio, Phoenix and on and on … that’s wonderful. And I love that people are asking. But it takes more. Which is the precise point league commissioner Don Garber made yesterday in his annual pre-MLS Cup address. On this one, he was speaking specifically about Atlanta.

It certainly would hinge on the new stadium because otherwise there wouldn’t be a place to play. Should the public sector and private sector be able to come together and get a new facility for the Falcons, it would allow us to continue our discussions on how MLS can fit into their mutual plans.”

Garber always has to be careful here, because he doesn’t want to discourage interest in Atlanta or anywhere else.  He can’t come across looking like a fiscal hardass. But he has to balance the public discourse with spoonfuls of real-world substance, too.

By the way, I am no fan of NFL teams kicking around MLS interest when it comes to new facilities. It’s too easy to employ MLS as a tool for political leverage, and then to reduce MLS to a vehicle for filling more stadium dates.

It has worked beautifully in Seattle, but that always seems more exception than rule.

(FYI: That map you see above represents absolutely nothing official … just think of it as me doodling on the computer while thinking of MLS expansion)

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