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MLS expansion in Florida set for 2016?

Jun 4, 2013, 8:50 AM EDT

Becham and Claure take in a recent Miami Heat game, as the Bolivian businessman revealed when they expect Miami to enter MLS. Reuters

A double dose of MLS could be coming to Florida. The power of David Beckham knows no bounds.

Becks has been in Miami over the past weekend checking out potential venues for a new MLS franchise and meeting with billionaire investors — pictured right, with Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure at a Miami Heat game — who want to help get an MLS side in Miami off the ground.

But according to reports, Miami will be joined by Floridian neighbors Orlando when MLS arrives in 2016. Now wouldn’t that be something?

However soccer fans in the southeast will have heard plenty of these rumors and exclusives over the years, but this one could be closer to the mark.

Over at the Scoring Third, Adam Henckler spoke to MLS VP of Communications, Dan Courtemanche, with some follow up questions to stories he had heard. Quite an interesting response followed.

While we are pleased to see strong interest in potential Major League Soccer expansion, we do not have a specific plan yet for adding new teams. We are pleased with the recent addition of New York City FC and will be addressing future expansion in the near future.

That last sentence was very interesting indeed, as Don Garber has recently suggested that MLS would take a breather from expansion talks and focus solely on the New York City FC franchise. It seems that those plans may have changed.

With Orange County mayor Teresa Jacobs recently announcing that Orlando City’s plans for a new soccer-specific stadium would be “fast-tracked” and Beckham’s trip to Miami, MLS may believe now is the right time to move back to Florida.

We don’t need reminding how the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny turned out. But that was then, this is now.

The league and individual clubs have learned from the mistakes those franchises made, that certainly won’t happen again in Florida.

But with Miami set to play on Florida International’s campus for the first few years of their existence, if they get the green light, and Orlando’s stadium deal still far from complete, there are significant hurdles to overcome. However now it seems as if there’s light at the end of the tunnel for having two Major League Soccer franchises in Florida.

  1. footballer4ever - Jun 4, 2013 at 8:58 AM

    It only helps to Orlando and Miami’s benefits that their local politicians are encouraging or supportive to be part of the process to bring football clubs to their respective cities. As far as Orlando SC goes, drop the SC unless you want to be known as sporting club, soccer club sounds amateurish.

    • charliej11 - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      Well that was a waste of 10 seconds.

  2. magicbucs - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    It’s sounds so “amateurish”? The Orlando city SC lions just destroyed the MLS Colorado rapids 3-1. Darn amateurs lol

    • ccshocktalk - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      LOL- I’ve been to Orlando City Soccer matches and i’ll say those guys can outright play. I’ve watched them handle their own against a variety of MLS clubs…reserves or not they beat the Seattle Sounders reserves 2-0. Orlando City can play in the MLS…it wont be an amazing club, it will have growing pains but in the long run, that team will do well.

  3. gmsalpha - Jun 4, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    I believe he was talking about the team’s name sounding amateurish. Not the team itself.

  4. buckyball77 - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    So, what’s the league chasing after now? Sunbelt/southern demographics? Or that marketing replacement for the fabled soccer mom and kids, the latino fan, shifting effortlessly from his beloved Deportivo Cali or Pumas to the MLS?

    • scoocha - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      Like all sports in the South (outside of College Football), people have better things to do than watch outdoor sports unless the team dominates their respective sport.
      Chasing demographics but not realizing Florida is a bad move for most sports – baseball and hockey come to mind. Maybe 1 franchise but certainly don’t add 2.

      • mvktr2 - Jun 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        Exactly! Sure the NFL teams do well as established teams and/or expansion teams in urban areas participating in the most prominent league and sport in the US. I’ve been surprised with NBA’s relative success. Outside of pockets of fans it’s ALL about college football which is easily the 2nd most popular sports brand in America and in the chiefly rural south it’s arguably the biggest. I’m in Mississippi and have no hope of anything close to a local team with the best I can hope for being Nashville or New Orleans one day. 😦

        For the reasons scoocha listed I’m still hesitant about Orlando/Miami. On the other hand I’m VERY impressed with what I know of OSC. In an ideal world Beckham and a billionaire partner would buy into OSC giving them a track record/existing fanbase along with city-corporate relationship backed by billions and star power. Seems a can’t miss recipe! Miami is glitzy but VERY VERY fickle! I think Miami is a perfect city for a bigger MLS with higher salaries and the ability to purchase more international star power which would seem to be a recipe for success there … if successful on the field!

  5. orlandocitytomls - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Why does everyone keep saying a stadium deal is far from complete? We’re maybe a month away from getting final funding approved for the final 1/4 of funding, and we literally have the support of the mayors of Orlando and Orange County. “Far from complete” is just not accurate whatsoever.

    • dws110 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:27 PM

      That puts you about 10 years ahead of NYCFC.

  6. orlandocitytomls - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    There is nothing wrong with OCSC or Orlando City as a name. And please continue to doubt that we won’t be an amazing club. Please keep doing that.

    • charliej11 - Jun 4, 2013 at 2:42 PM

      Beats the hell out of the boring “Football Club” used by about 75,000 teams.

    • chadmoon1 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      I’ll doubt it. Orlando averages 7k maybe? All the other Div 2 clubs that came up (Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Montreal) were doing much better than that attendance wise. I saw the attendance for the US Open Cup game as being below 5k?

      Hear this and know it to be true: Florida sucks as a sports market!!!! Can’t get regular attendance for hockey, baseball, basketball, and even football when the teams are no good.

      • bwholl - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        Flat out wrong. Seattle averaged around 3k, Portland averaged around 7k until they were announced as an MLS team, and Vancouver was around 3-4. Only Montreal had larger. Orlando can and will work. Miami is another story

  7. orlandocitytomls - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Oh, and for the record, David Beckham has NOTHING to do with Orlando’s efforts to join MLS, nor will he be responsible for it. I’m not a fan of a team in Miami, nor would I consider the clubs allies in any way whatsoever. We don’t need two teams in FL. Orlando doesn’t need a last name, nor did we buy fans or give the illusion of passion. We BUILT that here.

  8. clem1980 - Jun 4, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    This would be a BIG mistake…MLS has tried Florida franchises before, and after the initial honeymoon of enthusiasm, they have all flopped. People just do not want to sit out in the blazing sun and humidity to watch sports in Florida. Avoid.

    • Joe Prince-Wright - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      I think there is a lot of truth to your comment.

      What about indoor stadiums or some kind of air conditioning? Fans in Houston and Dallas seem to still turn out in decent numbers during the heat of the summer.

      One thing that always interested me is the number of fans in Orlando that would be tourists. With all of the theme parks and European visitors close by, could Orlando City rely on a healthy number of fans from tourists?

    • bwholl - Jun 4, 2013 at 7:22 PM

      Im not saying Miami will work, but it is unfair to hold the Fusion failure against the current bid. Miami didn’t get the initial boost of 96 and folded before the 2002 world cup boost. Miami was only a team for arguably the worst 4 years in MLS history. How many years were people begging for KC to fold or relocate and now look at them. Im not saying Miami will be a success, but using the fact that Florida failed in MLS before is irrelevant to today’s league.

  9. ndnut - Jun 4, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    If it weren’t for Becks, Miami talk wouldn’t exist. My votes are for Orlando and Atlanta in the southeast. Or better yet, add a team in the Twin Cities (or Milwaukee if it comes to that.) Both regions are hungry for pro soccer, and both should get a team.

  10. griffinjohn - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:07 PM

    For those in Miami and Orlando I would be worried about Atlanta. Expanding by two to fill the gap in the southeast makes the most sense and gets you to 22 with 24 not that far away. Atlanta is a strong sports town that brings the cache of a well-respected local owner who happens to own an NFL franchise. It is a top TV market which will be important in the future if you want to build your media rights. On top of that there are many leading US corporations based there including Coke, Home Depot, UPS among others. All that has to make Atlanta attractive to MLS headquarters so like I said Miami and Orlando should be nervous.

    • chadmoon1 - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      Atlanta sucks as a sports market too!!! Can’t keep a hockey team, the attendance at Hawks games is awful, and Braves and Falcons fans only come when the teams are good. Let them have a stinker of a season and watch the attendance dry up.

      • mvktr2 - Jun 5, 2013 at 5:17 PM

        Chad is chiefly correct. Additionally while Blank may seem a good idea as an owner I’m very cautious. He’s already talked about placing an atl MLS team in the planned new falcons stadium = BLAH-BLECK-BLAH!

  11. footballer4ever - Jun 4, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    Mickey Mouse Football Club. That solved the issue with New York already named “city”. :-)

  12. magicbucs - Jun 4, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    @ joe P W
    Yes some tourists will make it to games. Brazilian tourists co. have had entire sections at magic games for the longest time.
    Out of the millions of european and south american tourists Orlando gets I’m sure some of those will make it to a soccer game.

  13. talgrath - Jun 4, 2013 at 5:14 PM

    I don’t know about having two MLS teams in Florida, one seems more than sufficient. Orlando would be the smarter choice long-term in my opinion, but Beckham in Miami as an owner has more initial splash and is very attractive short term. I could be wrong, two Florida franchises could work, it does for the NFL I guess.

  14. phredicles - Jun 4, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    Two new teams in Florida would have a side effect of making the west conference really tough. When NTC starts up, you figure KC or Houston will switch conferences, and if MLS adds Orlando and Miami, that would presumably make the other of them switch, too.

    Well, I suppose it even out from all those years we’ve had chivas to beat up on. Of course, if you just ship the goats to Orlando, you can keep MLS at 20 teams (although that would still put KC and Houston both in the west).

  15. ryanw822 - Jun 11, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    Orlando City SC sounds better than American teams adopting the FC,

  16. ldino21 - Jun 24, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    I do not think you will further expansiion except from Existing teams in NASL and USLPro, MLS is t a point now that further expansion only needs to come from strong ownership groups that are growing and willing to build stadiums they are not going to just willy-nilly add franchises cause this sounds like a good city.

  17. Spencer - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    “We don’t need reminding how the Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny turned out. But that was then, this is now.”

    That’s at least a bit of oversimplification. I don’t know about the Fusion, but as far as the Mutiny were concerned, the reason they were contracted was because the league couldn’t find local ownership. Which does sound like a serious problem, certainly – until you remember that the Mutiny were playing in Raymond James Stadium, which is controlled by the Glazer family (who own the Buccaneers). From what I remember, George Steinbrenner’s kid was very interested in buying the Mutiny, but the Glazers’ wouldn’t cooperate with him (I believe their terms on parking and concessions would have made it very hard for Steinbrenner to make a profit).

    So the Glazers were pretty much the sole obstacle to the Mutiny’s continued existence here. Obviously, with MLS’ new (and correct, IMO) preference for soccer-specific stadia, the Glazers would no longer be an issue for MLS in Tampa Bay, should the question ever come up again. I don’t know if Florida Power Park in downtown St. Pete could be torn down or renovated into a SSS, but it would be worth exploring, hypothetically speaking.

    And yes, I know nobody is seriously considering Tampa Bay for a new franchise, and I agree there are more deserving markets that should be served first. I just get tired of people holding up the Mutiny’s contraction as evidence that nobody here cares about soccer, and that therefore we should never be considered for a new franchise. As usual, the details of what really happened paint a slightly more nuanced picture of the past.

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