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MLS Expansion Update: St. Louis, San Diego, Phoenix, Detroit, Sacramento, LAFC

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We have the latest Major League Soccer expansion updates for St. Louis, San Diego, Phoenix, Detroit, Sacramento, LAFC and more. Also, new power rankings.

Home of a potential San Diego MLS team.
Soccer City San Diego

It's that time again. It's time for our monthly-ish update regarding all things MLS Expansion. For those of you new to these updates, I have a bit of a fascination with MLS expansion (and expansion and contraction of pro sports leagues in general). If you need to get caught up, here are the last few updates.

  • March (Detroit, San Diego, Miami, Phoenix and more)
  • February (Big San Diego news, Phoenix, St. Louis and lots more)
  • January (MLS 2 possibilities, expansion timeline, North Carolina, Miami, Tampa Bay and more)
  • December (FC Cincinnati, St. Louis, San Diego and more)

General Expansion News

Our sister site, Angels of Parade, has confirmed that LAFC will be the only expansion team that will join MLS in 2018. There had long been talk that teams would be coming in as pairs going forward. In 2015 New York City FC and Orlando City SC came in together and this season Minnesota United and Atlanta United joined as a pair. LAFC will come in all alone because Miami, who was long rumored to be the team coming with them, won’t be ready until 2019 (at the soonest).

St. Louis, Missouri

The biggest news this month is for a potential cross-state rival for Sporting Kansas City in St. Louis FC moving up to MLS. They were relying on two ballot measures to pass. One for the MetroLink passed but the one for $60 million in stadium funding failed. The vote was 53% to 47%, or about 3,000 votes. That means only 58,000 people voted in an area that has 315,000 people.

Jim Kavanaugh, one of the investors in SC STL released a statement that while not declaring the bid dead, nearly does.

“While this is likely the final stage of our journey, we owe it to ourselves and to the thousands of people who believed in this effort, and voted for Proposition 2, to step back for a day or two before making an official announcement. In the short term, we will be thanking supporters and volunteers, both within the city and throughout the region.”

I have been saying for quite a while that insistence on public money was a non-starter. Even though SC STL sounds less than optimistic, there could still be reason for hope. It’s just $60 million in funding that is short (easy for me to say). There had been a second bid by the formerly named Foundry St. Louis that had offered to fill the gap before. Maybe they, or another investor, will step in. It seems silly to give up when they were willing to put up the other $255 million.

There was so much news around this I don’t want to leave anyone out:

San Diego, California

At the same time that St. Louis was failing their vote the group behind the San Diego bid is putting their plan up for a vote even though they apparently don’t have to. One important difference is that San Diego’s plan requires no public funds. This vote wouldn’t be until November 7, 2017 but MLS plans to make their selection by the end of the year. The decision to go to a vote came after the group got their required signatures, beating the goal by about 40,000 signatures.

It seems like a no-brainer as an independent report from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation has said the plan could have an annual economic impact of $2.8 billion.

More big news for San Diego, they have a team name... sort of.

A lot of effort went into that joke.

San Antonio FC

News has been sparse out of Texas but KSAT in San Antonio put out a story on the club’s expansion bid. They make mention of something that could be a deal breaker for their expansion hopes. The current home of SAFC is Toyota Field and is owned by the city and county. There is a plan in place to add about 10,000 seats to the stadium and that would cost about $100 million. The problem is that money may be partially or fully from the public. Ask St. Louis how that works.

Phoenix Rising FC

Phoenix is another city that is on the rise in the MLS expansion race. They recently had their first home game post-rebranding and it would have to be considered a success. 6,890 fans attended the game inside a stadium with only 6,200 seats. They followed that with 6,330 fans in the second home game. The stadium solution is supposed to be temporary with plans in place to build a 20,000+ seat privately financed climate-controlled stadium once expansion is granted.

If you are behind on PRFC then the Arizona Republic has a nice little story to catch you up on their tale.

Detroit, Michigan

The University of Michigan’s Center for Sport & Policy conducted a study that indicates bringing an MLS stadium to the currently half finished jail site instead of finishing the jail would have a huge economic impact. It would generate $2.39 billion in economic impact as opposed to the $352 million the jail would generate. In addition the deal would create 2,106 permanent jobs. This can’t be bad for Detroit trying to get a team.

David Beckham’s Miami United

File this under Las Vegas MLS news if you want but Sports Illustrated is reporting that Beckham doesn’t have the option to switch from Miami to Las Vegas. When the Oakland Raiders were announced to be moving to Vegas there was talk that Beckham may follow. After all, he was in Vegas last year telling the city that with the Raiders potentially coming a MLS team could follow.

That team won’t be his unless he wants to give up the sweet deal he has with Major League Soccer that allows him a franchise for a greatly reduced fee. Apparently that is good for one city only, Miami. Now if they can just get that situation worked out.

Sacramento Republic FC

One by product of the news that LAFC were coming into the league alone next year was word from FiftyFive.One that Sacramento were rumored to be coming in with them. Apparently the unrest in the ownership group and submitting a bid without the Republic brand caused them to just fall back inline as just another bid. Ouch.

Indy Eleven

The Indy Star has grim news for Indy Eleven’s bid to join MLS. The Star is reporting that without “surprise funding” that “Indy Eleven has no discernible path to join America's premier professional soccer league.”

The dilemma? Indy Eleven are relying on the state legislature, ie. public funds are needed for their stadium plan. Public funding is definitely a no go. When will these hopeful investors learn that?

North Carolina FC

NCFC has joined forces with two local area youth clubs, Capitol Area Soccer League and Triangle Futbol Club Alliance. This appears to make them only the second of the 12 franchising vying for MLS admittance that would have any sort of academy. It doesn’t seem to be a true academy in the sense of Sporting KC or FC Dallas, but it’s a start. The youth game is needed and important but a long play when the selection process will be half over by the end of 2017.

LAFC

If the news of coming in alone isn’t enough for you (and it should be considering that means top picks in the SuperDraft, Allocation Order and more) then Yahoo has a little more for you. The team is deep into it’s search for a coach and on top of that they are looking to sign players starting this summer. That’s exciting news for the prospective 14,000 season ticket holders.

Corner Kicks (all that other expansion/contraction news):

EXPANSION POWER RANKINGS

Note: Due to the league limiting expansion to just the 12 markets that have applied, I'm going to limit my power rankings to those 12 markets plus Miami. Until Miami actually is the 24th team, I have this sneaky feeling they may get jumped.

1. San Diego, California (Previous Rank: 1)

Beautiful weather. A workable stadium plan. Possibly their biggest competition fell off the map in the last week too. The plan to put their situation to a vote is odd and could backfire, but things look good right now.

2. FC Cincinnati (Previous Rank: 3)

They move up by way of Sacramento potentially botching their chance to get a MLS club. It won’t hurt FCC when they play their home opener this weekend on the 15th against Saint Louis FC. The game should have killer attendance and only help the cause. Still just a privately financed stadium plan away from being a shoe in.

3. Phoenix Rising FC (Previous Rank: 5)

My personal bias at play? Probably. They are off to a great start with their new owners, new stadium and their plan to privately finance their potential MLS stadium. They are also the biggest market of the 12 clubs up for expansion.

4. Miami, Florida (Previous Rank: 4)

They supposedly will be ready to go in 2019, until they aren’t.

5. Sacramento Republic FC (Previous Rank: 2)

The first news in months is that they blew their chance to join the league with LAFC. The fact that they are being called just another bid doesn’t sound good.

6. Tampa Bay/St. Pete (Previous Rank: 6)

Last I checked they are still the biggest media market bidding for expansion. They are also privately financing their stadium expansion.

7. North Carolina FC (Previous Rank: 7)

They have added a youth setup to their rebrand, stadium news and new NWSL team. They are staying in the news and lingering in a spot that could jump them into the top five at any moment.

8. Detroit, Michigan (Previous Rank: 8)

More good news. Now they just need to acquire that stadium site.

9. Nashville, Tennessee (Previous Rank: 9)

With the club still a year away from their USL debut that has to be the biggest mark against them. They are one of the clubs looking for public funds but the Nashville mayor is on board. Will the voters be?

10. San Antonio FC (Previous Rank: 11)

The news that they may need public funds is a black mark, but they move up simply so St. Louis can move down.

11. St. Louis, Missouri (Previous Rank: 10)

If SC STL could come up with their money (without public funds) I’d put them in second right now. Instead it sounds like they are about to give up all together.

12. Indy Eleven (Previous Rank: 12)

How are they still behind St. Louis? They are a less desirable location and need public money. It’s not happening.

13. Charlotte, North Carolina (Previous Rank: 13)

Same deal as Indy, but even worse is they are by far the worst bid in North Carolina. Billionaires asking for free money just looks bad.