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Has Major League Soccer already decided on three more expansion teams?

Sep 11, 2013, 9:21 PM EDT


Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber is at BMO Field tonight to take in Toronto’s game against Chicago, but before the match he dropped a potentially telling piece of news as it concerns those four expansion teams that are supposed to come into the league between 2015 and 2020.

As you might remember, Garber recently made public MLS plans to expand to 24 after New York City FC joins the league in 2015, expansion that will take the league to 20 franchises two years from now. While it was generally assumed the southeast United States will be strongly considered for some of the teams, little other information was known about MLS’s expansion plans.

Today, however, Garber revealed most of those expansion slots may already be taken. From TSN’s Luke Wileman, posted before tonight’s kickoff:

Amazingly, encouragingly, and a bit surprisingly, the process of identifying those that will get MLS to 24 seems like it’s almost done. At least, it’s three-quarters of the way done, leaving only the details of who they are and when, exactly, they’ll be phased in. In addition to deciding on that fourth team, of course.

Given how little time it’s taken to settle on three, Orlando has to be among them. At least, that’s when makes the most sense. Orlando City SC owner Phil Rawkins has been talking a big game, saying his team will be among the four, and it’s starting to look like that was more public relations. The 20,000-plus crowd that packed the Florida Citrus Bowl this weekend may soon be doing so for an MLS team (albeit in a new facility, in all likelihood).

As for the other teams, one of these has to be Beckham’s right? Former LA Galaxy star David Beckham has the right to purchase a team, and rumors have linked him to a Miami franchise for some time. It’s hard to see MLS settling on three new franchises so quickly without Beckham’s being among them.

As for the third, there are a litany of options always bandied about here, all of which have their virtues and problems. But if hitting the southeast was a major goal of this round of expansion, MLS looks ready to accomplish it.


  1. braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    NASL, at it’s peak, had 24 teams; I hope this is not a mistake by MLS.

    • Jackson Scofield - Sep 11, 2013 at 9:54 PM

      NASL and MLS were completely different business models and MLS franchises have proven significantly more stable throughout the league’s history. Even the “dark ages” that involved two teams folding would have been nowhere close the worst of the tumultuous turnover of teams from the old NASL.

      • eroc3927 - Sep 12, 2013 at 3:15 PM

        Soccer has to grow organically, you cannot force soccer on the public. Soccer grew organically in places like Seattle, Portland, Orlando etc. You cannot just drop a soccer franchise in a big US city dominated by the NFL and think its going to succeed. The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL job is to wipe out soccer. They don’t want it around to take away advertising dollars. They want to kill soccer. So you got to be careful. Soccer is still a niche sport in the US. MLS has to still proceed with caution.

      • petertyler - Sep 16, 2013 at 10:10 AM

        @eroc. . . Agreed about organic growth, and for the most part the MLS seems to understand this.

        About the other major sports leagues. . . their “job” is to garner fandom and dollars, not to “wipe out soccer”. The main two to have issues with soccer were NFL and MLB– NFL because they didn’t want to lose cultural/merchandising/broadcasting prowess, and MLB because the US soccer calendar intrudes on their season. NBA and NHL are becoming increasingly sports for niche demographics and seem to notice that (not to mention their own internal issues are constraining them). Now if the MLS were to go to a winter calendar to match the rest of the world, you’d see more issues with NBA and NHL.

        How does the NFL “go after” soccer? In the past, the NFL would pull cute stunts like hiring away potential soccer talent to do things like place kicking. I think the NFL is starting to realize that if they can coexist with NASCAR, they can coexist with soccer. Not to mention they’d like to avoid anti-competition lawsuits with anybody.

        The MLB has responded to summer soccer mostly by amping up advertising. I’ve seen it out here in LA. It’s almost as if they want to out-promote and out-glitz MLS. That will catch up with them though, as baseball is becoming as nearly expensive as American football to operate.

        The NBA. . . so many high-end NBA athletes are or were already soccer fans before becoming basketball stars, I think the league has simply sighed and figured it would be best to coexist.

        And to add a little. . . all the pre-MLS major leagues are lucky rugby and lacrosse have not taken hold yet, because they’d have even more competition to deal with.

    • Scott Ludwig - Sep 11, 2013 at 9:55 PM

      I question if there are enough quality players for so many teams as well. MLS is not a world-elite league (and may not ever be) and the quality of play has to be considered. The Toronto-Chicago match tonight seems to be a good example judging my my Twitter feed.

      I watch if there are no other football matches on TV and the occasional “big” matchup in the West. But I would still watch a Brasil-Portugal friendly (like I am right now!) before an average MLS fixture.

      • Jackson Scofield - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:22 PM

        Soccer has a huge international talent pool to draw from, MLS can draw more than enough talent from other regions, we don’t need every new team to be stacked with star European players.

      • Scott Ludwig - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:32 PM

        I agree that there is a huge international pool of players; there is also a competitive domestic league in almost every county in the world.

        I also agree with MLS (not “we”) not necessarily needing star European players. I’m assuming you are referring to the older FORMER European “stars” currently in MLS. Not sure on your point of view here?

      • jerichowhiskey - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:00 PM

        I would think the low six figure salaries or even five figures (RBNY did sign Bradley Wright-Phillips for $50k) would mean there are plenty waiting to be signed.

      • charliej11 - Sep 12, 2013 at 12:41 AM

        Hey Scott keep us posted on what games you watch please. Is there a twitter feed for that ?

        As for us, WE are growing in leaps and bounds…not just in teams, which has been phenominal, not just in fans, where the growth has been steady, but also talent ( huge improvements )

        The best part about it, is that WE have managed to keep the losers who are too good for MLS from converting, so it is a fan base you don’t mind sitting next to at a game. Lets hope that continues as WE grow in the future. The last thing WE need is the guys who whine about every little thing like the talent not being good enough for them, sitting next to you.

    • corgster - Sep 12, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      You’ve got your facts right, your context all wrong.

      Yes, NASL peaked at 24 teams, but what you’re missing is what happened the season before and the seasons following. NASL franchises were coming in and falling out too frequently. MLS has only had to cut two franchises (not owner withdrawals mind you) and relocated one. NASL peaked at 24 but only fielded 21 teams the next year.

      Can you name three MLS teams today that will fold this year!? Therein lies my counterargument.

      • eroc3927 - Sep 12, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        They might not fold but there are several MLS teams that are not making any money. They have not broken even and are in the red. Before Garber expands he needs to get rid of Chivas. This has to be done before you do anything else. The Chivas situation has to be addressed.

    • joeyt360 - Sep 12, 2013 at 6:48 PM

      MLS is already not the NASL. By the time they get to 24 teams, they’ll already have lived longer than the entirety of the NASL.

  2. braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    We have a new (minor) NASL league. Can’t we do like the EPL, and demote any team that isn’t (in our case) FINANCIALLY good enough to play with our MLS Top 20.

    We’d gain more overseas fans, for one (not that that’s important, I guess).

    • corgster - Sep 12, 2013 at 8:35 AM

      So the league format gains fans?

      The FBS in college football was terrible but still climb in TV ratings.

    • jdfsquared - Sep 12, 2013 at 2:04 PM

      I just don’t see business leaders paying these expansion fees with the distinct possibility of playing in the second tier just one year after joining. Too big a financial risk.

      Plus, at this point in soccer’s growth in the US, I think it would hurt fan bases, as well. The casual fan who might be interested that Atlanta (or wherever) got a team, is gonna pissed and bewildered that in year two their team won’t be playing against the Sounders, Galaxy & Red Bulls and isn’t on national TV anymore. Hell, I’m a (US) soccer fan, and I’d be pissed.

      If relegation is coming to MLS, and I’m not sure it ever will, it’s gonna have to wait a while.

    • eroc3927 - Sep 12, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      No Owner is going to build a 300 million soccer specific stadium to go play in the NASL and USL Pro.

  3. mrpaisley - Sep 11, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    I can see a team in Orlando easily. And let’s say Beckham wants another in Miami (which would be crazy… very close to each other, about a 4ish hour drive).

    What I’m really curious about though is the ugly spot that is Chivas USA. Morally it’s, disputable but I mean they share a stadium with another team. At the very least they need their own place…. When LA and Chivas play each other, whose season ticket takes precedence?

    Also, I hear Atlanta, Georgia’s been making some noise for a soccer team. What say you?

    • Norrin Radd - Sep 12, 2013 at 2:21 AM

      4ish hours between cities is close? Don’t read about NYCFC and Red Bulls, or LA and Chivas, your mind will explode.

      • mrpaisley - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:43 PM

        1: Yeah Chivas / LA are a bad example of how to do it right…
        2: NYCFC and Red Bulls haven’t happened yet… It remains to be seen how that will work out. Hell it remains to be seen WHERE NYCFC will play

    • brucewaynewins - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:37 AM

      The home team’s fans would be the ones selling the tickets and thus be the ones who’s season ticket holders get their seats. Is that not common knowledge/ common sense? This is how it works in all sports with teams sharing stadiums/arenas.

      • mrpaisley - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:45 PM

        So, if LA and Chivas, who share a stadium, and play in that same stadium every “home game”, have a game against each other…

        The home team has first priority? Yeah no way dude! Oh wait they share the same stadium, same seats, same season tickets…

    • brucewaynewins - Sep 13, 2013 at 7:39 AM

      You do realize just because you share a stadium doesn’t make it a home game for both teams right? All US sports have a set amount of home games and away games. Two teams can’t share a home game no matter where it’s played. Just like two teams can’t share an away game no matter where it’s played. How do you not get this?

      • mrpaisley - Sep 14, 2013 at 3:32 AM

        No actually, walk me through this one.

        Chivas fan, has season ticket in seat 1, for Chivas home games

        LA fan, also has season ticket, for seat 1, during LA home games.

        Both teams have the same stadium.

        They play a game against each other.

        Which fans’ season ticket takes precedence?

      • mrpaisley - Sep 14, 2013 at 3:32 AM

        Ohhhh unless you’re saying they, designate it ahead of time? Which game is “home” and “away”… even though it’s the same stadium?

        That’d blow. I’d hate to be Chivas.

  4. hildezero - Sep 12, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    @Scott Ludwig,

    No wonder you said MLS might never be a world elite league. You don’t even watch it or keep up with league! XD MLS are definitely in route to become a world elite league. There are HIGH expectations.

    • charliej11 - Sep 12, 2013 at 12:44 AM

      Doesn’t watch, but that doesn’t stop him from knowing more than guys who rarely miss a game.

    • Scott Ludwig - Sep 12, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      hildezero : I am not a fan of MLS; I’m a fan of the sport. I tweet, blog about ALL levels of the sport in the U.S. and beyond. A simple glance at my site will find recent posts about high school soccer, college (NCAA & NJCAA), and professional leagues. Reading a comment after one post does not make you or anyone else know anything about my level of enthusiasm for the sport. And I love the fact that MLS has high expectations! Many changes are needed to become a “world elite league” though.

      charliej11 : not sure why you are so emotional about my comment, but I apologize if my view offends you in any way. I was simply responding to the question of having so many teams at the MLS-level in the U.S. Soccer pyramid.

  5. hildezero - Sep 12, 2013 at 4:41 AM


    Fo real. This cat is so ignorant, that he thinks he knows what he’s talking about, when he actually rarely watches soccer and spends time with football instead.

  6. brad9000 - Sep 12, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    Having 2 teams in Florida doesn’t fill the hole in the southeast. Look at a map. Put a pin in Orlando then Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, Columbus, and DC. Then notice the massive area of the country still without a team. If I hear another idiot say putting a team on that small peninsula solves the problem of not having a team in the southeast I’m going to slap somebody. Also, I want to stop hearing about how great the MLS is going to be. It’s not great yet, so what? “We’re going to be one of the best leagues in the world” great, just do it. Stop talking about it and just do it. Who cares if the MLS didn’t become one of the best leagues overnight? If you like watching the MLS watch it and dont feel the need to defend it to constantly tell everyone “in 10 more years we’ll be the best”

    • robe1300 - Sep 12, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      I agree with your sentiment. I’m an MLS fan and try to avoid doing that because it doesnt really say a whole lot about the league’s current state other than that it isnt one of the world’s best leagues right now. However, the context in which I use that statement (and which other MLS fans I know use it also) usually comes up in one of two contexts. First, it may be a part of an attempt to recruit new fans to the league. I don’t think this is a productive use of that platitude because it does not really give a potential fan any real reason to start watching the league. MLS fans would be better served focusing on the current positive aspects of the league that may not be present in other leagues around the world- the parity of the teams on the field, the lack of predictability of matches, the fact that one can easily go to a game (instead of having to fly to Spain, England, etc.).

      Second, I’ve used it and seen it used in defense to attacks on the league- that the level of competition isn’t high or that the teams that the league is composed of “suck.” Generally, these comments are from fans of European clubs/leagues and also generally come from people who either have not watched an MLS match in a long time or have never paid attention to the league during their soccer fandom. My point is not that MLS is great or better than any other soccer league that one can follow. It is that MLS fans are used to being called out for being lesser fans for liking the domestic league and that the “MLS will be great one day” comment is a reflexive response to those criticisms.

      So lets come to an agreement: MLS fans need to stop preaching about the future and fans of the game in Europe need to stop telling MLS fans that their passion is somehow less valid or worth less because the quality in the league is not as high.

  7. futbol247365 - Sep 12, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    Hitting Orlando and Miami doesn’t really qualify as hittingv the southeast. That is just hitting Florida. Putting a team in Atlanta would be a mistake. They are already notorious for not supporting the teams they have. Soccer will never last there.

    • Greg - Sep 12, 2013 at 9:15 AM

      Except soccer HAS lasted there, heard of the Silverbacks? They’ve been around since 1995. They have a soccer specific stadium that included expansion to 15,000 in it’s plans, it’s been open since 2006 in a pretty convenient location.

      • Norrin Radd - Sep 12, 2013 at 11:09 AM

        Well except the year they took off or so. Oh and the SIlverbacks will have nothing to do with the MLS if it comes, there are no plans anywhere to expand SB park to anything more than what it is now. A minor league soccer stadium.

  8. kane337 - Sep 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    It has been well documented that Arthur Blank wants a soccer team for his new stadium that should be ready by 2017. Metro Atlanta has a huge youth soccer community. Will people drive downtown to watch MLS games? Maybe.

  9. d4nielbritt - Sep 12, 2013 at 2:25 PM

    Does Arthur Blank want an MLS team of his own, or would he want to move the gorillas in? That is a huge question. Personally I think if they use a fresh, new franchise they are screwed.

  10. eknock007 - Sep 12, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    Before MLS decides to expand to Florida, they should really take the time to study the demographics of the place and take a lesson from what Major League Baseball is going through in that state. The people of Florida tend to be older, many from out of state, and where college football and the NFL have a very strong footprint. It doesn’t help that in the Miami area most Hispanics (an important demographics the MLS wants to target) are of Cuban descent, a latino demographics that is not exactly known for having strong cultural ties to soccer or futbol. MLS should have learned a valuable lesson when the Fusion and the Mutiny were in the league, that Florida may be sexy but that that does not necessarily translate to success. Beckham or no Beckham, I hope MLS does not make the same mistake twice and instead looked elsewhere like Rochester, the Carolinas, and even Canada to expand the league.

  11. onelovesoccer7 - Sep 12, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    we all figured Beck’s team and Orlando were 2 of them. the question was always the “other” two. it’s interesting to hear him say the 3rd team is decided because i can’t think of a market that is far enough along for MLS to consider them a lock.

  12. tamparaindancer - Sep 12, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    Dear MLS-Snobs,

    The sun does not actually rise and set on the MLS. While MLS is 1st division, some commenters seem to indicate a lack of knowledge as far as 2nd, 3rd & even 4th division soccer is concerned. I support teams in MLS, NASL and even NPSL…..the NASL and NPSL franchises are local to me. The NASL franchise provides the thrills and excitement I’ve also experienced when I’ve attended MLS matches in Portland. The NASL, USL-Pro and NPSL fill in many of those wide open spaces you see in an MLS-only map.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 14, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      @tamparain, Well said! We now have supporting leagues to entertain the possibility of some sort of relegation system.

      Things work differently here in the States, so when we mesh European ideas with MLS it’s never done so to the letter, we usually slightly modify it.
      I believe Relegation is one of those things. I’d like to see MLS try it, but not based on team performance, rather a club’s FINANCIAL performance. (So, it would make no sense to do it every year, rather, do it when the need arises.) If this was tried and it worked, then maybe a couple decades from now, we could consider doing it based on something other than finances.

  13. griffinjohn - Sep 14, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Orlando is a given and to the person worried about demographics, Orlando is a booming town for the younger generation. Further, it is a smart decision to go to a city that has just one other professional sports team, the NBA’s magic. No other competition outside college football in the fall which consumes the state.
    Miami is a curious choice, the pressure to win will be immediate. ticket buyers have so many options down there and if a team is not winning check out the attendance numbers. Dolphins, Hurricanes, Panthers and Marlins do very well win they are winning but when they are losing…
    Another thing in Miami’s favor is there is two ownership groups checking out the market, Beckham and the Miami Dolphins owner.
    My concern about Atlanta is like Miami they support winners. Hockey did not work there twice. The Hawks struggle for attendance and even the Flcons take a back seat to SEC football.
    I think there will be a surprise city or two come out of this but if I was betting I would go with Orlando and either Miami or Atlanta for the second franchise and then the surprise or two come into play.
    And please, please, PLEASE stop about promotion/relegation. It will not work in this country in the immediate future. Who will invest in an MLS franchise and stadium at risk of relegation, What city will help build a stadium at risk of relegation. And most importantly, there is NOT a stable second division to support a promotion/relegation format.

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