For those of you who aren't familiar, I have a minor obsession with potential expansion for Major League Soccer (and USL for that matter). I've previously given big updates on expansion all around the country but I have a special love for St Louis gaining a team. They would make perfect in state rivals to Sporting Kansas City. I also have an affinity for Phoenix, Arizona gaining a team since that's where I currently live (well the suburbs, but you get the idea). I've even gone as far as to invent a Promotion and Relegation system that would account for all these new MLS teams. Let's get to the news.
San Diego, California
There appears to be progress on the potential placement of an MLS team in San Diego. In late September, San Diego residents received a survey in their mail from MLS about a future team in the area. One of the questions centered around what people would be willing to pay for tickets and another on potential stadium locations.
The location of the stadium will become more clear on November 8, 2016, when we'll know if ballot "Measure C" has passed. That would allow the NFL's San Diego Chargers to obtain funding for a new stadium. This is critical because the potential MLS team would share a field with San Diego State University's football team at the Chargers old stadium site. Progress was made this week when San Diego's mayor came to an agreement with the Chargers that looks to help push the ballot measure towards passing.
St Louis, Missouri
A second ownership group has emerged in St Louis going by the name Foundry St. Louis. The group is led by Dan Cordes, an employee from Express Scripts who rose all the way to their senior staff. No other members of the group have been identified. The group is reported trying to work with the other group trying to bring MLS to St Louis, but without any luck to date. This new group has now turned their attention to working directly with the league office. Until other members of the group emerge and we figure out how deep their pockets are, it's hard to take this group seriously. MLS loves billionaires and downtown stadiums and the Foundry group hasn't put out anything indicating they have some billionaires or a stadium plan. I'm firmly filing this on the back burner until future news comes out.
With MLS Commissioner, Don Garber, set to visit on November 29, 2016, speculation has begun to swirl that FC Cincinnati could be the next team to gain expansion into the MLS. I wouldn't get carried away as Garber and company have visited the Sacramento Republic multiple times and they are still waiting. That said, Cincy helped make their case with a USL record 30,187 fans in attendance for their home playoff loss this past weekend.
Additionally, Cincinnati appears set to do even more to secure their potential future in MLS. They are going to build dedicated training facilities and partner up with youth clubs, which appears to be a step towards building an academy program. On top of all that, it appears that FC Cincinnati are trying to follow in Orlando City SC's footsteps to gain expansion.
With the United Soccer League (USL) recently granting an expansion team for 2018 to Nashville, the man behind that ownership group has already turned his attention to gaining MLS expansion. David Dill, who is a co-owner of DMD Soccer (the group behind the USL's Nashville FC), is now joining a group led by Bill Hagerty that is pushing for MLS expansion. The article in the Tennessean indicates the USL team may continue to exist as a partner to the future MLS teams. The group has even gone as far as scouting stadium locations, though they wouldn't disclose where. It'll be interesting to see what comes of it, but Nashville FC don't even have a place to play yet, though their debut is still more than a year away.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
OKC Energy FC fans are still probably riding high from their USL Cup Playoff victory from over the weekend, but before that they got subtle news on potential MLS expansion. The owner of the team, Bob Funk Jr., along with other investors, have agreed to buy 37-acres of land in downtown OKC. MLS really loves downtown stadiums, so this seems like a step in the right direction. Not to mention, the source for that information was the league's official site.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Over the last couple of weeks steam has really picked up towards the NFL's Oakland Raiders making a move to Las Vegas. The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee recommended an increase in hotel taxes to the tune of $750 million. That money would be used to build a stadium for the Raiders but it could be shared with UNLV's football team and a future potential MLS club. Remember when David Beckham was in Vegas instead of Miami pushing for a stadium?
If this stadium deal goes through that would significantly increase the chances that an MLS team could come to Sin City as well. The biggest problem with Vegas is the same one plaguing Phoenix. The horrible summer heat makes playing soccer outdoors all but impossible. This enclosed stadium solves that issue. Think of how much easier it is to sell taxpayers on three teams in one stadium instead of one.
The Soccer Don Speaks
"When I look at what’s happening across the U.S. for the most part, because I think we’re fully expanded in Canada, and you see markets like Austin and San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Cincinnati, these are big cities that have fans that already are engaged with the sport at some level professionally. I don’t know how we don’t provide those fans and owners and municipalities the opportunity to be involved in MLS. We’ve got to be smart about it, careful about it."
The first thing that jumps out to me is that Canada isn't on the radar at all for potential MLS expansion. Next, the first name off his tongue was Austin, Texas. I love Austin. It's a cool city and it feels like there should be soccer there. That said, they can't even find a suitable stadium for the Austin Aztexs (USL) [h/t to Phil for spelling better than I], who appear to be on the verge of sitting out their second straight season. Other than that, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Cincinnati all appear to be front-runners.
Garber also noted the expansion committee is meeting in the second week of November and then they'll discuss at the Board of Governors meeting after the MLS Cup. That should bring some big news as to what the future plans to get to 28 teams are.
Other tidbits from Garber:
He expects soccer specific stadiums for NYCFC and the New England Revolution.
Things are good in Miami, but there is nothing new to report.
Originally Minnesota wasn't going to get to use the United name, but Garber got convinced otherwise.
He wants more importance placed on the US Open Cup
CONCACAF Champions League schedule could change.
Minnesota are reported considering several candidates to be the head coach of their expansion team next season. Among them are former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath, former Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, current New England Revolution assistant coach Tom Soehn and their current NASL coach Carl Craig. It's being reported that Craig isn't a strong consideration due to his lack of MLS experience. I tend to believe Soehn has a good chance because MLSSoccer.com confirmed his wife is from the area. If they had their choice it'd probably me Schmid, but I can't seem him wanting to go there with LAFC's job will be out there for the taking in 2018.
In more concrete MNUFC news, the club has hired it's first academy director. Tim Carter will play that role and has a background in youth development. His first signing while running Shattuck-St. Mary’s School was Teal Bunbury. Carter was previously the director of youth development for the Chicago Fire.
Speaking of coaches, Sigi Schmid was apparently in the running for this job too before Leonel Messi's former coach, Gerardo "Tata" Martino was announced as the clubs first coach. Tata has quite the resume as the former coach of Barcelona and Argentina. Beyond that Gerardo played for a very long time and has successful coaching stops before getting those huge jobs. Here is to hoping his leash is longer than Orlando and NYCFC gave their initial coaches.
This is probably old news for Atlanta fans, but our sister site, Dirty South Soccer, has been putting together fantastic pieces about the upcoming expansion draft. Here is the first one (though they haven't gotten to Sporting KC yet).
News should start ramping up quick with LAFC set to join MLS in 2018 but this seemed like something worth mentioning. Former United States National Team coach Bob Bradley was being linked to LAFC until the bomb was dropped that he'll be taking over Swansea City in the Premier League. Hey LA fans, Sigi is still out there waiting to make his LA return.
This is another quick one, but MLSSoccer.com have put together their latest episode of The Movement and it features Sac Town. It seems like a hip place to live. Now if only the results on the field could match that debut season Cup run (Sacramento got bounced by the 8th seed Orange County Blues this past weekend -- no doubt to avoid playing the Swope Park Rangers).
Corner Kicks (all that other expansion news):
- Apparently the NASL is in trouble. Teams appear to be fleeing, likely to the USL.
- A look at what could happen if the NASL fails.
- With the NASL faltering, the USL looks to step up it's game to be second in the pyramid. Their future looks bright with their updated production ability.
- A look at how important soccer specific stadiums are from a club currently building one.
- Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor is being linked with a 2017 MLS expansion team (read: Atlanta or Minnesota)
EXPANSION POWER RANKINGS
1. David Beckham's Miami United (Previous Rank: 1)
They have to be first until some really bad news comes out. It seems hard to imagine they'll be ready to join the Eastern Conference by 2018 like LAFC will be set to join the West.
2. Sacramento Republic FC (Previous Rank: 2)
Sure they flopped right out of the USL Cup Playoffs despite having the best record in the Western Conference. Still, their name is on Don Garber's tongue, and that means something. I can't see them joining MLS in 2018 with LAFC, but the league could always realign conferences like they did in 2015 with Orlando and New York.
3. Cincinnati FC (Previous Rank: 4)
They just sold over 30,000 tickets to a USL game. Wow! Most MLS stadiums don't even seat 30,000 fans. They would make sense as an Eastern Conference addition with LAFC, but it feels too early. I'd like to see them sustain this success for a second (or third or fourth) year. But that attendance!
4. St. Louis (Previous Rank: 3)
It's not that they are doing anything wrong, it's just that they aren't doing anything. St Louis FC (USL) aren't drawing big crowds, so they would likely act as nothing other than an affiliate to a potential MLS team. That said, a second ownership group could push the first to step up their game.
5. Detroit, Michigan (Previous Rank: 5)
When Garber talked expansion he mentioned Detroit again. Not to mention, they still have two billionaires backing them.
6. Phoenix, Arizona (Previous Rank: 6)
Nothing new to report, but I'll be interested to see what that new Arizona United SC (USL) ownership group does with the team.
7. San Diego, California (Previous Rank: 8)
For the first time in a long time it feels like the Chargers could stay in San Diego and that would do a great deal towards an MLS team coming in too. If that pesky Landon Donovan would have just stayed retired he could have helped spur interest in his adopted home of San Diego.
8. San Antonio FC (Previous Rank: 7)
They missed the playoffs in the USL, so they lose a spot. But that still have a stadium that is already got plans for expansion to MLS level capacity. And Garber mentioned them too.
9. Nashville, Tennessee (Previous Rank: 9)
They have more people looking to push for MLS expansion. Now if they can just get a USL stadium.
10. Las Vegas, Nevada (Previous Rank: 10)
Check back after we see if the politicians approve that huge hotel tax increase to fund them and the Raiders coming to town. It would be super weird to go from no professional sports teams to three (the NHL announced a Vegas expansion team already) in such a short time. The NFL and MLS may want to see how the NHL handles things first.