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Ranking the candidates for MLS’s next expansion team (after Atlanta’s Wednesday announcement)

Apr 16, 2014, 8:57 PM EDT

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When we went live with our post on Atlanta being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, we originally called it the league’s 23rd team. Technically, Miami doesn’t have a team yet; David Beckham has merely exercised his option. Particularly after MLS called Atlanta No. 22, we made the change. Twenty-three teams are being planned, put one is still theoretical.

As it concerns the bigger “24 by 2020” picture, however, you have to include Beckham United, meaning there’s probably only one slot open in this round of expansion. If the feelings Garber conveyed in last month’s teleconference are as accurate regarding No. 24 as they were about Atlanta, there’s a huge favorite in the quest to grab that final expansion slot.

Last month, our ranking went five deep. This time, we don’t need to go beyond two:

1. Minneapolis – The picture in Minnesota is complex, with Garber speaking favorably of Bill McGuire’s Minnesota United FC group last month. But as we learned earlier today, the Vikings are “stepping up” their pursuit. With Garber having said the league would like another team in the midwest, everything is lining up to go to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The choice seems to be whether to go with the promotion model (ala Seattle, Portland, Orlando, and Vancouver) or the big partner route (ala New York City FC, Atlanta, and … oh yeah, Seattle).

2. The Field – Places like San Antonio and Sacramento might have better claims than others, but perceived hot spots like St. Louis and San Diego have some superficial national appeal. With that in mind, we could blow out this list, but what’s the point? There no other market nearly as attractive as Minneapolis in terms of ownership, interest, and potential venues, a disparity that has lumped every other candidate into a big “not Minnesota” pile.

That there’s some inner-market competition ensures all bidders will continue to push each other, making it even more difficult to other cities to catch up. Though the scarcity of spots means another bid could develop a sense of urgency, right now, there’s Minneapolis and there’s everything else.

  1. skjln - Apr 16, 2014 at 9:58 PM

    You have deleted the posts regarding your poor grammar. The least that you could do, after deleting the posts, is to fix the grammatical errors in the article in question. I offer a selection, for editing, below. One would expect “writers’ to be more skilled in the application of the rules of writing. My apologies if my post contains a few errors, but alas, I am not a writer.

    “There’s no other market is nearly as attractive as Minneapolis in terms of ownership, interesting, and potential venues, a disparity that’s begun lumping every other candidate into a big “not Minnesota” pile.”

    • Richard Farley - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:01 PM

      Sorry, I didn’t see a comment re: grammatical errors. If it was deleted, it wasn’t by me, though I did delete two other ones (one of which was my own, flippantly responding to something that wasn’t constructive).

      I’ll fix this now, thanks for pointing it out.

    • Richard Farley - Apr 16, 2014 at 10:04 PM

      Thanks for pointing this out. It’s always helpful, if embarrassing. I’ve fixed that sentence and will try to give the post another read after I’m done with New York-Philadelphia.

      Sorry about that, and I’ll take a quick look to see if maybe the other comment to which you allude got caught by a filter.

  2. nickp91 - Apr 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM

    What are the chances St. Louis gets a MLS franchise? Great sports city and soccer Mecca for decades in USA

    • sibertt - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      Chances are 0 unless we can come up with a good investor and stadium plan, unfortunately. Nothing else really matters for joining MLS at the moment.

  3. gbart22 - Apr 17, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I seriously question the expansion to Atlanta. It’s not a very good sports town in general outside of the falcons. I think if any of the new franchises fail it will be the one in Atlanta.

    • chunkala - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:27 AM

      I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’ll get a lot of hate from Southeasterners who just don’t want to admit the facts or liste to the truth. The Braves and Hawks have huge attendance problems even though they both made the playoffs consistently. Plus, the Thrashers had to leave town. Outsid eof college football and NASCAR, the SEast is a risky move for major sports teams.

    • talgrath - Apr 17, 2014 at 3:15 PM

      Well where else in the southeast can you go? As far as major cities, Florida is pretty much saturated (Orlando and Miami), your options are maybe Tennessee and New Orleans. If Atlanta is a “bad” sports city, then New Orleans is worse, last year in the NBA their attendance was at 80.3% of capacity on average and even the Saints, which have been one of the most entertaining and accomplished teams of the past few years, are 12th in attendance based on percentage of seats occupied and their only pro soccer team that I can find, the Jesters, just moved down to 4th tier. Tennessee’s two big cities, Nashville and the Memphis have virtually zero support for soccer; Nashville has a 4th tier and USL development team and Memphis doesn’t even seem to have a professional soccer team of any sort any more; Atlanta at least has the Silverbacks bringing in about 4,000 fans on average. So if you’re trying to get support in the southeast, where exactly are you going to go? Is it to the city that has 4,000 people attending NASL matches that also happens to be the largest media market that MLS hasn’t been to with a new stadium being built to also host soccer, or do you go to some other city because “Atlanta is a bad sports town”?

    • reformed2012 - Apr 17, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      It is a problem of getting the people to know about the sports and the team. Remember Atlanta is only southeastern U.S. city that have ever hosted the Summer Olympics.

  4. gbart22 - Apr 17, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    And I read your piece on why it should succeed and saw the other franchises you site as examples like the marlins, braves etc thing is those teams are propped up by league revenue sharing to keep them a float and even the dolphins with their national appeal would struggle if not for the nfl revenue share in recent times and perhaps that will change when they are a good team again but that can’t be said for the baseball and basketball teams. The Miami heat before Lebron were a tough draw even though they’ve been mostly a playoff team with a few bad seasons. The hawks in the nba routinely struggle to draw despite being a playoff team. Teams like the marlins and especially the braves given their respective markets and those markets economic value should theoretically be able to compete on the same level as the cubs dodgers Yankees and red sox however even in good times like the braves have had they remain small market teams with the in need of league revenue share to keep them green. When teams are successful and still continue to draw and generate income in respect to their markets that when they get labeled with their bad sports town label. Now I hope both franchises succeed and they find a good balance but Miami and Atlanta are the two cities in the United States that worry me the most when it comes to sports not called the NFL. Personally I think they’d have been better off tackling places like Nashville or Charlotte to break into the south east

    • chunkala - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      The Northeast is a just a different beast than the southern US for 2 major reasons. One, simply history Northern teams have existed for so many years that they’ve built up such great fanbases. Two, options, theres great weather in the South for people to choose to do things outside, etc. In the Northeast, everyone is bunkered inside because of the snow and inclement weather that they just devote more time to their sports teams. Outside of football, I can never see the sports being wildly successful in the South, unless the team is amazing (ex: Miami Heat) because then going to the game becomes the IT thing to do and its cool to root for the new awesome thing in town. Its fake fandom not real allegiance to the team like you mentioned with New York and Boston teams.

  5. sdbeisbol - Apr 17, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    San Diego is always in the mix even though there is no real ownership interest. I hope someone steps up and brings a team there finally.

  6. sibertt - Apr 17, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    I guess I haven’t been keeping up with expansion news as much as I should have – when did Detroit drop off the map?

    • talgrath - Apr 17, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      Being bankrupt, it’s unlikely an MLS team could get a stadium built there unless someone ponied up a lot of money for it all on their own. Additionally they only have a 4th tier soccer team actually in the city (Detroit City FC).

    • babatundew - Apr 17, 2014 at 7:27 PM

      Detroit is a dying city. Doubt MLS or potential MLS would want to invest there

    • reformed2012 - Apr 17, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      Stay away from DeToliet.

  7. bird352 - Apr 17, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    The only logical next expansion is Indianapolis. The Indy 11 is ready to go. It has good owner with deep pockets. There have been over 7k in season ticket sales with 3k on the waiting list. Honda is the Jersey sponsor. The team already has have a local TV broadcast contract. It has a strong and very active supporters group in the Brick yard battalion that pre dates the team. The team already has a temporary home that seats 11k and is currently looking for a downtown location to build a new stadium. The Indy 11 is in better position then many current MLS clubs. No other city or team offers what indianapolis currently posses. To to plug in play ball. I declare a new Midwest Cup tournament (Chicago, KC, Columbus, and Indy).

    • talgrath - Apr 17, 2014 at 3:38 PM

      The only real problem there is that NASL views itself as a rival to MLS instead of a partner, that’s why USL pro teams get “promoted” to MLS instead of NASL teams. If MLS tried to buy the Indy Eleven out of their NASL contracts, I’m sure NASL would try to bend them over a barrel, so you really need a non-NASL team and/or ownership group. That’s why MLS isn’t picking up the Silverbacks despite them being a relatively successful NASL team, instead going to Arthur Blank to create a brand new team.

  8. chadmoon1 - Apr 17, 2014 at 3:41 PM

    I agree that Indy, if they can keep it going, is ready made. San Antonio also is ready made. Sacramento may be right behind. San Diego should be in the league already, taking Chivas USA off the hands of the league.

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