By IVES GALARCEP
The city of Tampa was one of founding cities of Major League Soccer, but the Tampa Bay Mutiny only lasted until 2001, when contraction forced the shutdown of the club.
More than a decade later, a group is trying to put a plan together to bring MLS back to Tampa, and the centerpiece of the project is a proposed $400 million stadium. Credit to The Offside Rules for uncovering the project on Wednesday.
It is unclear just how much muscle this group has, and how realistic the stadium project is, but it is no secret that MLS wants to eventually establish a presence in the southern part of the United States. Something the league hasn’t had since contracting the Mutiny and Miami Fusion.
“We need to be south of Washington D.C. and It isn’t a matter of if, but when and where,” Garber said in his State-of-the-League address on Monday. “The state of Florida needs a Division One professional soccer team. Miami continues to be an intriguing market to us. We are very impressed with the ownership group in Orlando. We will continue to monitor what happens down there and if they are to finalize a stadium plan that makes sense we would be very interested in talking with them about the possibility of becoming an MLS team.”
Orlando has emerged as a candidate for MLS expansion over the past year, while Miami has long been considered a possibility, but the return of Tampa to the conversation could make things very interesting if the group in question can make progress in getting a stadium built.
With MLS focused on making a second New York team the 20th MLS team, the wait for a team in Florida is likely to be a long one, but MLS hasn’t ruled out expanding the league beyond 20 teams, and as things stand it is looking more and more like Florida will be a safe bet to secure an expansion team after 20, and could even wind up landing the 20th MLS team if Major League Soccer’s bid to finalize a second New York team falls through.
What do you think of this development? Like the idea of having MLS return to Tampa? Think the league is better off having a team in Orlando or Miami?
Share your thoughts below.