Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Early Line on MLS Expansion '11

Today's announcement by MLS honcho Marc Abbott on the magnificent seven cities that presented expansion bids for the league's 2011 expansion round is notable for many reasons; the foreign interest in MLS, the three bids from North of the border, and one glaring omission: a bid by the Wilpon family, who were reportedly interested in adding a team and building a stadium in Queens, New York. Had the credit crunch bitten the Wilpons? We'll soon find out, but for now, feel bad for the Borough Boys, the startup supporters' group that won't have a club until 2013 at the earliest.

So which cities will be joining the ever-growing MLS? Here's a one man's opinion:

Atlanta: Financial support from the NFL Falcons' owner Arthur Blank notwithstanding, Hot'lanta is horrendous sports town. Fans may turn out to support the Falcons (if they're winning), but as the Braves, Hawks, and Thrashers can attest, the many transplants in the area provide little home field advantage. No.

Ottawa: Although there's an outdoor stadium in place, the Canadian capital is too small a market to support a club. Ottawa falls behind Montreal and Vancouver, despite nice Loonies from the Sens' owners. No.

St. Louis: Lack of a firm stadium plan and questionable financing allowed Phiily to leapfrog the great soccer town to land a club for 2010. Given the current financial situation, I'm unconvinced that MLS will go here. Perhaps the Wizards move across Missouri? No to expansion.

Vancouver: The USL Champion Whitecaps' ownership group has been unsuccessful in building a downtown, waterfront stadium here for a few years now. Despite adding Steve Nash to the ownership group, Vancouver remains a dark horse.

Portland: There's a great affinity among hard-core MLS fandom for the Timbers Army, the superlative supporters club of the USL-1 Timbers. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's son is the prime mover here, but Beaver Stadium, which the club current shares with the city's AAA baseball club, needs a load of work. Sentimental favorite here, but I think PDX is the last cut.

Montreal: A superb ownership team with the Impact-and stadium-owning Saptuo family in combination with the NHL Canadiens and Liverpool owning Gillett family. The team's spanking new stadium is ready for a build-out, and the current USL club is well supported. What's not to like? Welcome to MLS. Road trip!

Miami: A last-minute surprise, with FC Barcelona ready to front for a US club. Just as Dave Checketts shocked MLS with his Salt Lake franchise, Barca Miami will play at Florida International University's new stadium. The league gets a great partnership with the most storied of great clubs, entry back into the Southeast, and an MLS Cup near South Beach. How could this be a bad thing? Welcome to MLS, Miami!

My 2011 MLS Alignment:

DC United
New England
New York

FC Dallas
Kansas City
Los Angeles
Salt Lake
San Jose

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would say lack of knowledge on the subject. St. Louis, in actuality, is the only one with a firm stadium plan. Do your research first, please.