Saturday, October 07, 2006

MLS expansion cities and more

Over at BigSoccer, MLS commissioner Don Garber has answered 20 questions submitted by members. Sure enough, the question of expansion possibilities have come up. Here are his thoughts:

ATLANTA – We’ve had recent discussions with two different potential ownership groups and we plan to spend more time focusing on this key Southeast market. . We would like to have a presence south of Washington, D.C. and Atlanta has many of the attributes we look for in a new market. Unfortunately, at this time, Atlanta does not have an appropriate facility for an MLS team. The stadium that was home to the WUSA’s Atlanta Beat, Herndon Stadium, is too small and does not have the modern amenities needed for an MLS team. We are interested to see how the Honduras versus Guatemala match does next Tuesday in Atlanta. Two FC Dallas players – Ramon Nunez and Carlos Ruiz – will be playing against each other for their respective national teams.

AUSTIN - Although a great city, we are not currently considering Austin for a future MLS expansion team.

CLEVELAND – Most of you are all aware that we have been talking to Paul Garafolo and the Wolstein family for a few years. They continue to work hard on securing a stadium and we speak with them regularly. Cleveland is a front-runner for an MLS expansion team.

LAS VEGAS – We have met with government officials in Las Vegas this year and with an appropriate (indoor) stadium, this could be a terrific market.

MILWAUKEE – Peter Wilt continues to lead the efforts to bring an MLS team to Milwaukee. Peter keeps us updated on a regular basis. Current news on potential MLS expansion into Milwaukee can be found here.

PHILADELPHIA – Like many of the potential expansion markets, we believe that the Philadelphia area is an excellent soccer market. Although Rowan University has been unable to secure all the funding it sought for its campus development proposal at this time, we remain interested in, and supportive of, the efforts to complete a stadium there. We’ve been in discussions with multiple ownership groups for the Philadelphia market and I have spent a great deal of time in Philadelphia during the last two months. Again, we need to finalize a plan for a soccer facility, but we are encouraged with our recent progress in this area.

PORTLAND – We hear many great things about Portland and are familiar with the success the market has had with pro soccer in the past with the NASL’s Timbers (and with the current USL version of he Timbers) and at the collegiate level with the University of Portland. We have spoken with potential investors about bringing an MLS team to the Pacific Northwest and Portland has been discussed. We’ll continue to analyze the market.

SAN ANTONIO – We took a hard look at San Antonio last year and former Mayor Ed Garza was very helpful in leading the efforts to bring an MLS team to San Antonio. However, we have not had any discussions in 2006 with any government officials or potential owners regarding the San Antonio market.

SAN DIEGO – We’ve had some success with international matches in San Diego with our Soccer United Marketing division, and we believe San Diego could be a great MLS market. We’ve had many discussions with potential owners in San Diego throughout the League’s 11 seasons.

SAN JOSE – As you know, MLS has a partnership with Lew Wolff and John Fisher, the owners of the Oakland Athletics, to bring professional soccer back to the Bay Area. Lew and John have acquired a three-year exclusive option to acquire a MLS team should the group be successful in developing a new soccer-specific stadium. They have hired three full-time staff members to work on bringing the Earthquakes back to San Jose. You can subscribe to their email newsletter for updates here. Lew and John are looking at many options to build a soccer-specific stadium in the Bay Area. We hope to return to the Bay Area soon.

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis is another front-runner for future MLS expansion. You have probably read in local media reports where we are speaking with a potential ownership group in St. Louis. This potential ownership group has visited many MLS stadiums and had a large group attend the 2006 Sierra Mist MLS All-Star Game. They have identified a potential site for a stadium in just outside St. Louis, and local officials from that city recently visited Pizza Hut Park.

SEATTLE – We continue to believe in the potential of Seattle and were particularly impressed by the success that Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer had with the Real Madrid/DC United game they organized in Qwest Field. We will spend more time focusing on getting an MLS team in the Northwest in the coming year.

I must admit, the inclusion of Austin, Texas on the list was interesting. It would be an interesting location site, even if it has no chance in the current MLS structure. Maybe if the USL's PDL team the Austin Lightning moved up in the USL and got a good following, they might make a future list, but probably not.

Anyway, there are a number of other good questions asked, so go have a good read (Part 1, Part 2).

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Blogger Steven Gerrards Double said...

Really enjoyed the blog. I'm very interested in all the MLS expansions and it is an exciting time for MLS, I do however feel the adding of teams could happen a little quicker! I say they should build up teams ASAP with the new teams having clear and contracted plans for new stadia. I've never seen a country with so much potential concerning footie. Keep up the good work.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Mike H said...

Mr Double,

Thanks for the kind words. As far as MLS building up teams, they need to keep expanding, but a big concern is if they do it too fast, there will not be enough quality players to go around.

I'm sure in 10-15 years, this argument will look silly, but with US youth development only recently becoming strong (and it still has a way to go), and the MLS's need for US players to fill out the squads, there just hasn't been enough time yet.

However, I cannot agree more that the US has so much potential. Mark my words, in 20 years, the US will be a top 10 team and will have one of the best leagues. Now we just have to get there.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad to see that MLS is looking the underserved southeast and northwest for expansion.

Atlanta, though, has a horrible record as a sports town, with so many transplanted residents.

I'd love to see teams 14, 15, and 16 in St, Louis, Seattle, and Philly.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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11:06 PM  
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