Freelance: MLS- Ranking the Four Best Locations for New Teams

Fútbol is the rest of the world’s game. Major League Soccer (MLS) is working hard to make the U.S. relevant in that game. Founded in mid-December of 1993 and having held their first season in 1996, the New York City-based 23-year-old league that started with a collection of ten teams has added 12 more franchises. MLS will soon grow by five more teams and there are 12 cities currently in the running to join.

LAFC (Confirmed for 2018)

The LA Galaxy will finally have crosstown rival. LAFC was founded in October of 2014 but has yet to play. Their formation comes thanks to the investor group of businessman Henry Nguyen, sport and show business’ Peter Guber, and former NBA head, Tom Penn. The team’s 2017 was delayed as their proposed 22,00-seat, 350 million-dollar Banc of California Stadium is still under construction.

LAFC founded their official training academy (that features teams as young as their under 12 squad) on February 1 of last year.

The Candidates for the Remaining Four Spots

  • Charlotte

  • Cincinnati

  • Detroit

  • Indianapolis

  • Nashville

  • Phoenix

  • Raleigh-Durham

  • Sacramento

  • San Antonio

  • San Diego

  • St. Louis

  • Tampa/St. Petersburg

The Top Four

4. Tampa/ St. Petersburg

In an article on MLS’ own website, soccer legend David Beckham is pushing for a team in Miami. Without them on the list, this combination seems to be the best option he’ll get. A former team in the original MLS, TB-SP is being backed by a wealthy real estate developer named Bill Edwards. Finding an investor (or rather the failure to do so) was a key factor in the demise of the Tampa Bay Mutiny. There is already a minor-league team in the form of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Edwards will also be putting down around 80 million-dollar to expand the Rowdies/MLS stadium in St. Petersburg to 18,000 seats. What’s the major reason the possible team made this list? Per Sports Illustrated, TB-SP is “the largest media market” on the candidates list without a team. Aside from putting on a great main product in the game of soccer itself, sports (in general corporate sense) are really about advertising and sales to result in overall dollars.

3. San Antonio

The state of Texas is home to a largely Latin population that treats this game as a form of religion, more so than any other team on this list. This and a ready-made rivalry with FC Dallas (similar to that of LA or what could ensure with the possible St. Louis squad and the Chicago Fire) will give the city, Bexar County, and SS&E consortium a return on their $18 million-dollar purchase of Toyota Field.

Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator Joe Rogan once said that for the then-dying mixed martial arts promotion to be saved, it would need “some crazy billionaires who where fans.) That’s the family behind San Antonio SS&E— the Holt family— of Holt Cat, the biggest Caterpillar construction vehicle dealership (which made over one and half-billion dollars last year.)

MLS commissioner Don Garber feels that the overall success of the Spurs of attracted fans to the area among other things and that an MLS franchise could do the same. As mentioned above, public support is high but so is the political “thumbs up.” Leaders know that having a direct link to that fútbol’s heritage would be a goal-scoring addition to the city.

2. St. Louis

“The Gateway to the Midwest” is a heavyweight contender due to a few of factors: The people of the city think that STL is too great of a sports city with the world championship-winning Cardinals baseball team and the often-competitive Blues hockey team to only be a two-sport city. The push to put an MLS pitch in the city intensified after the city lost the NFL’s Rams to Los Angeles.

The second factor is that St. Louis will be able to be a fully developed team from top to bottom by having NCAA Division-I universities in St. Louis University (SLU) and the nearby Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Both the Billikens of SLU and SIUE Cougars have engaged in friendly matches with St. Louis FC of the United Soccer League (USL.)

St. Louis has already signed former Billiken player Tyler David with alumnus Tim Leonard on the coaching staff. SIUE’s Austin Ledbetter joined the team in February.

Lastly, soccer has already been a hot on St. Louis before. After the defunct St. Louis Steamers came STL FC in 2014. Despite the fact that the team has yet to qualify for the USL postseason, the fans, aka Hooligans, have continued to sell out World Technology Soccer Park game after game.

The problem for an MLS club would be that the team will not share that space and an MLS stadium would come from public funding. Local politicians will vote on the matter of a stadium coming to downtown on Tuesday (April 4.)

1. San Diego

San Diego would be a great fit because when other countries think of America, they think of places like Chicago, New York City, or the major stop in California of Hollywood and LA. Being able to field three successful franchises like California does with hockey (the LA, Anaheim Ducks, and San Jose Sharks) would put the state, the MLS, and the country at the forefront of international soccer talk.

San Diego specifically is a more recent addition to this list as support of a pro soccer team to go along with the NFL successful has not been high. The secondary reason that the sport would work there (now) is eerily the related situation of the city’s NFL team like with St. Louis and the Rams.

While the Chargers will continue to exist as a NFL team, they will not be playing in San Diego. The organization announced on January 10 of this year they would be relocating, just like the Rams, to LA. The fans just didn’t want to be one franchise down, and so, turned to soccer like St. Louis.

Commissioner Garber told the media in February, “If we didn’t think San Diego would work, we wouldn’t be here today. We’ve positioned ourselves as a league for a new America. That new America lives here in San Diego.”