After the All-Star Game: Expansion talk upstages event
08/01/2013 12:28 PM
08/01/2013 12:28 PM
, the bigger story happened at halftime.
That's because commissioner Don Garber dropped the bombshell thatthe league would expand to 24 teams by 2020
While lot of eyes were on the league's summer showcase, the timing was interesting because the league the league's current collective bargaining agreement with the MLS Players Union and its broadcast contracts with ESPN and NBC are expiring in 2014.
Adding five more teams in the next seven years is a lot more jobs for the players union and would mean a much bigger footprint nationally for TV audiences.
"As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth," Garber said in the league's press release, "the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”
The league currently has 19 teams with a 20th arriving in New York (with the help of Manchester City and the New York Yankees) in 2015. The plan would make MLS the largest top-tier league in the world. (The English Championship -- the second division -- has 24 teams too.)
The speculation now begins: Where will MLS expand too?
With large pockets of the country left to explore (the Southeast and Midwest primarily) MLS certainly won't be without options.
Sporting KC's affiliate, Orlando City SC in the third-tier USL-Pro, is an obvious contender. The team is closing in on a stadium deal and have very high aspirations.
Next up would be another Florida team, where it's believed David Beckham (who can buy into the league at a reduced rate) is looking at developing a Miami franchise.
Would MLS consider adding a franchise in Atlanta to tap that market too?
What about the Midwest, where Sporting KC could gain a few new regional rivals?
Oklahoma City is an interesting situation, as the city is going all-in on soccer with rival lower-tier teams joining the USL-Pro and NASL in the near future.
St. Louis, long considered a soccer hotbed, hasn't been able to hold down a professional team and there aren't any on the horizon. But nearly 50,000 did turn out for a Manchester City-Chelsea friendly earlier this year.
Minneapolis and Indianapolis both have minor-league teams in place, but questions about location, stadium and fans could be an issue.
The other potential contenders: Sacramento (former Wizard Preki recently took charge of their new USL Pro team, the Sacramento Republic) and San Antonio (big crowds in the NASL with a stadium that can expand) seem like geographical possibilities.
Some other names I've seen: Detroit, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Ottawa.
This could be an interesting "competition" to follow.