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Who’s left? With Miami confirmed, MLS down to two expansion slots

Feb 5, 2014, 3:57 PM EDT

arthur_blank AP

New York FC and Orlando City will start play in 2015. Miami? Who knows, but at least they’ve got a ticket, and with Major League Soccer approaching that magic 24 number, there aren’t that many left. If the league sticks to its plan to find its 23rd and 24th members by 2015, there’s only room for two more kids at this prom.

So who does that leave? Atlanta seems to be the favorite for No. 23, but it’s hard to tell. With Orlando’s entry (team in place, stadium coming), it was easy to read the tea leaves. Likewise with David Beckham. He had his option, and we knew he was angling for Miami. Teams 21 and 22 were predictable.

Atlanta doesn’t have Beckham’s promises or the Orlando City SC blueprint, but they have been part of what seems like a continuous connection between Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (pictured) and Major League Soccer. With MLS committed to setting up camp again in the southeast, Atlanta could be a significant cog – one that complements the new Florida franchises. What Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver are to one corner of the map, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando could try be to the other.

The other expansion candidates aren’t such easy fits. Minneapolis represents another potential partnership with an NFL owner and venue, but the geographic urgency isn’t as pressing. St. Louis is always mentioned as a possible destination, but that’s more a nod to the city’s soccer history than any viable plan to play in the market. San Antonio is the type of market where MLS has found recent success, but attendance for the second year of the NASL franchise dropped slightly.

Then there are the fringe candidates. Charlotte’s USL PRO ownership has whispered about wanting to follow Orlando’s example. Likewise, the Sacramento Republic may be a third-to-first tier candidate (just don’t forget about those average temperatures of 92-93 degrees in July and August; highs eclipse 110).

This is where the decisions get hard, which is why we might not get the relatively quick decisions we saw with Orlando and Miami. And with MLS down to two slots, it might be worth it  to let this process play out, see which ownership groups strengthen, and let the competition identify which options are the strongest.

  1. kirielson - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    In order for #24 (we’ll call ATL #23).

    #1 San Antonio (has everything ready so that once given the bid, they can revamp it to MLS quality in no time, plus it gives us Texas Trio

    #2 Minneapolis as long as they can get the support and the stadium works

    #3 Charlotte They have everything set but they’re relatively small

    #4 Sacramento – Same as #3 but they’re JUST getting started competing.

    #5 St. Louis, they JUST have a USL Pro team in the works,

  2. jrocknstuff - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    St Louis fans have proven their dedication to the sport. They would come into the league with instant sellouts and a natural rivalry with SKC. It’d be a shame if they didn’t get a franchise.

    • takethelongview - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:08 PM

      St. Louis would have a natural rivalry with SKC AND with Chicago.

      • mikeevergreen - Feb 6, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        THAT’S what I;m looking forward to. Actually, you can have a four-team cup if you include Columbus Crew.

        You have Cascadia in the Northwest, the Cal and LA Clasicos in CA, down Southeast you can have the Cocktail Cup (soccer version of College Football’s “World’s Largest Cocktail Party” Florida vs. Georgia), you can have the “Texas Three-step” if you include SA. You have the Mountain Cup with Colorado and RSL, and you can have the I-95 Cup (NE, the NY teams, Philly, and DC).

        The way you handle them is each team in one of these things puts up $500,000, winning team divvies up the pot among the players (alot like the Super league we have with mexico).

      • blanewalberg - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:53 AM

        Ah, but so would a team in Minneapolis. Do the math and it’s about equal distance between the 3

    • soccerphanatic - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:51 PM

      St. Louis’ biggest problem is finding an ownership group. For example, Philadelphia also had a strong fanbase, a long history with soccer, and was the fifth largest city in the U.S. with natural rivalries with NY and DC but they were passed over by the MLS because no ownership group stepped up to invest in a team. The biggest reason they got consideration was because of the grassroots campaign by the Sons of Ben that showed any on-the-fence investors that a potential team already had support. If St. Louis can get an investor to step up, then they would probably jump to front of the line or at least into a tie with San Antonio. But until then, the MLS won’t give St. Louis any serious consideration in expansion talks.

  3. cornishhooligan - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:25 PM

    If Dubai can host a World Cup, then a team in Sacramento shouldn’t be too much of an issue. It’s not like the sweltering heat is that horrid.

  4. danielofthedale - Feb 5, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    I am really hoping Atlanta will be #23! It would just be great to finally have a team to call my own. As for #24, I would love to see St. Louis get an ownership together and land that team. I think they have the best soccer support of any city without a team. The fact that they have no lower level team is not a big deal to me. They get a billionaire that wants a team and can get a stadium done then it should be them over all over teams on the list.

  5. christophershearin - Feb 5, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    what about Indianapolis? we just got a nasl franchise that kicks off this April, there are plans for a stadium… although it is a long shot…

    • babatundew - Feb 6, 2014 at 1:39 AM

      MLS is looking for the big TV markets now since they plan to stop at 24. And who wants to play in Indiana anyway?

    • munciewood - Feb 6, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      Having Peter Wilt on board certainly helps; what is impressive about Indianapolis are the season ticket deposits. They already had to be capped because demand was so great.

  6. charliej11 - Feb 5, 2014 at 9:01 PM

    MLS will blow through 24 teams VERY quickly, so none of these are either/or.

    • takethelongview - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:12 PM

      I tend to agree. There may be a pause for digestion following #24, similar to the (unplanned?) pause that separates the admission of Montreal from the entry of NYCFC/Orlando. But when #25 and beyond come knocking with existing USL/NASL fanbases, existing stadia, and the $100 entry fee already in hand…..MLS will cash that check and welcome them to the club.

  7. jokoneski - Feb 5, 2014 at 9:06 PM

    Detroit

    • babatundew - Feb 6, 2014 at 1:38 AM

      Detroit is a city in decline

  8. babatundew - Feb 6, 2014 at 1:38 AM

    It should be: Atlanta, San Antonio and/or San Diego

    • asimonetti88 - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:07 AM

      If you’re going to put a team in SD, move the Chivas there.

      • babatundew - Apr 19, 2014 at 3:33 PM

        I completely agree. It’s only a matter of time because all the potential owners that come to MLS will want to move the club

      • babatundew - Apr 19, 2014 at 3:34 PM

        They are going to have to rebrand Chivas though and change their name and logo because only Chivas Guadalajara fans out of the Liga MX fans like Chivas USA

  9. midtec2005 - Feb 6, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    I haven’t seen this mentioned much, and it’s probably not in the works, but Cleveland would be awesome. The Crew don’t really have a natural rival, that would create one. Ohio is sports crazy, so it’d work.

    I’d still go with St. Louis though.

  10. dje81 - Feb 6, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    StL sold out Busch Stadium with 55,000 fans to watch a friendly between Argentina and Bosnia.. A MLS would do well there.

  11. mikeevergreen - Feb 6, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    I don’t think Garber should stop at 24. I think he should go to 27 by 2024. Three 9-team divisions, you play your own division twice (16 games), each other team once (18 games) for a total of 34 games, which we play now.

    For playoffs, top 4 from each division get in. Three division winners and best second-place get first round bye, first round (between teams 5-12) is one-off. Quarters and semis are two-legged, with one-off final.

    East:

    Montreal, NE, NYCFC, RBNY, Phiadelphia, DC United, Atlanta, Orlando City, Miami.

    Central:

    Toronto, Columbus, Chicago, St,Louis, Sporting KC, Minnesota, Houston, FC Dallas, San Antonio.

    West:

    Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, LA Galaxy, Chivas, SJ Earthquakes, Colorado, RSL, LA Gunners.

  12. kombayn - Feb 7, 2014 at 4:05 AM

    #23 Atlanta – The stadium is already designed to have a BC Place design that the Whitecaps use. Arthur Blank has a lot of connections with MLS, so I don’t think this is that hard to understand.

    #24 San Antonio – It makes the most sense, they have the stadium ready to build expansion and it’s a nice solid market with a good fan-base.

    And then relocate Chivas USA and rebrand them the Sacramento Republic FC, that would be the perfect fit for MLS from 2020 to 2030 then see what they want to do with the league when the 100th Anniversary of the 1st World Cup comes up. Do they possibly look at expanding to 36 teams and finally look at promotion/relegation?

    • mikeevergreen - Feb 11, 2014 at 5:45 PM

      You mention the 100th anniv of the WC. We’re already hosting the CONMEBOL 100th (Copa Centenario). Are you suggesting we apply for 2030?

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