A closer look at MLS’s recent expansion

Atlanta Falcons/Atlanta MLS Owner Arthur Blank, MLS Commissioner Don Garber

photo by Perry McIntyre/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

Not all things are created equal. MLS’s recent expansion is a prime example of that.

Atlanta was added officially as MLS’s 22nd team on Wednesday and the club is set to begin play in 2017 in a shiny new stadium that will open that year and also house the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Announcing that as a done deal in downtown Atlanta was the culmination of several years of hard work by MLS commissioner Don Garber and Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons and the new MLS club, and the latest sign of the league and sport’s growth in the United States and Canada.

That said, the move also raised questions as to MLS’s current process for expansion. Several markets were told in recent years that they had to meet certain requirements – like having a deal for a soccer-specific stadium in place – in order to be in contention for an expansion franchise. But the past year has shown that those requirements were mere guidelines or a wish list that MLS was okay with overlooking if it felt certain markets had other selling points and plenty of potential.

From New York City FC to Orlando City to Miami to Atlanta, no two cities have had the same recipe for getting into MLS over the past 12 months. In fact, their entrances into the league have all differed a substantial amount.

Here is a closer look at MLS’s most recent expansion markets:

NEW YORK CITY FC

The league’s 20th franchise was started from scratch and announced last May despite not having a temporary or permanent stadium solution in place at the time. New York City FC are reportedly set to cross off the former task next week with the announcement that they will spend their first three seasons playing home games at Yankee Stadium, but the club still does not have a fixed plan in place for a soccer-specific stadium of their own. Finding a permanent solution was never going to be easy in cluttered New York, but the club surely hoped for things to go a little smoother in that regard since it is also attempting to build a fanbase and roster ahead of its inaugural season in 2015.

ORLANDO CITY

Orlando City made its way into MLS by crossing off all the requirements that MLS asked of the Central Florida club. Orlando City had their fans turn out in bunches to their USL Pro games, locked up several local corporate sponsorship deals and, after lots of political wheeling and dealing, were given permission to build a soccer-specific stadium in the downtown area ahead of their 2015 start date. Of the latest batch of expansion in MLS, Orlando City is the team that is currently most put together.

ATLANTA

Unlike New York City FC and Orlando City, the yet-to-be-named Atlanta club does not have ideas of playing in a soccer-specific stadium anytime soon. Instead, it will reside in a state-of-the-art facility that is also being made with the NFL’s Falcons in mind. There is going to be an innovative “downsizing technology” that will help reduce the stadium’s size once MLS games get underway there in 2017, but even that has drawn its share of skepticism as have the city’s fickle sports fans.

MIAMI

Technically speaking, David Beckham’s Miami franchise is not guaranteed a place in the league just yet. Yes, there was a big announcement in South Florida back in February, but that was a tactical move done to rally public support in another city known for its demanding (high maintenance?) fans. Beckham’s franchise – whose targeted opening date continues to change – needs to get a soccer-specific stadium plan in place in order to officially be granted entrance into MLS and that is proving difficult right now.

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What do you make of MLS’s recent expansion efforts? Worried by some of these expansion markets? Think the additions of New York, Orlando, Atlanta and possibly Miami show how strong MLS currently is?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, MLS- Expansion, MLS- Miami, MLS- New York City FC, MLS- Orlando City. Bookmark the permalink.

112 Responses to A closer look at MLS’s recent expansion

  1. slowleftarm says:

    My thoughts? Orlando = good. Other three = bad except for the expansion money, which is the only reason they’re in the league anyway.

    • Sean says:

      Would you have the Orlando team be the only one in the Southeast? Thousands of miles away from every other team? I don’t know much about NYCFC but I can say that I have confidence in Arthur Blank to do it right.

      • Ian says:

        Let’s rank them from most viable to least (in our limited knowledge and unlimited speculation):

        1. Orlando – Has an actual club with actual fans. Has a stadium plan. Stadium is in prime location. I give them 9/10 on the “Future Success-o-Meter.”

        2. Atlanta – Has no actual club or fans, but does have a stadium of sorts in place. Stadium is in prime location. Owner seems genuinely passionate about bringing soccer to his city, and he says he’ll spend to the limit. 7/10.

        3. NYCFC – Has no actual club or fans, and no stadium or plans for a stadium. But it’s New York, and NYCFC is co-owned by Emirati oil money. 6/10

        4. Miami – Has no club, no fans, no stadium. Some Miami stake-holders are openly hostile to current stadium proposal. But it’s Beckham. He and his golden balls are determined to make it happen. 5/10.

        Thoughts?

        • MLSatlanta says:

          I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. I know it seems biased but I think Atlanta is going to far exceed everyone’s expectations. I’ve been a part of the Atlanta soccer scene for over 15 years and this city craves soccer.

          Just hours after the press conference yesterday there were already over 1,000 people to put down payments on season tickets and I’m sure that number is far greater now.

        • Danielofthedale says:

          Actually Atlanta has the Silverbacks and avg. 4,700 per game last season and that number has increased each season the team has been back.

          And in less than a day we around 2,000 season ticket deposits.

        • Rory Miller says:

          World of difference between the number of fans Orlando has had in USL and how many they will need in MLS. First, we can’t blindly accept Orlando’s numbers as legit we have a long way to go to make it to the average number of MLS fans at a game.

          • Ian says:

            I didn’t say OCSC would see Seattle-like attendance, but out of the four expansion cities, they’re in the best shape.

    • Vic says:

      You are 110% correct.

  2. malkin says:

    “MIAMI

    Technically speaking, David Beckham’s Miami franchise is not guaranteed a place in the league just yet. Yes, there was a big announcement in South Florida back in February, but that was a tactical move done to rally public support. ”

    Ahhh, thanks for that. Been wondering why everyone keeps referring to Atlanta as #22.

  3. Jay Boca says:

    NYC FC in a baseball stadium.

    Miami with no stadium plans.

    Atlanta in an NFL stadium.

    How is Orlando the most organized team of this group?

  4. William the Terror says:

    Has Beckham looked into Miami of Ohio?

    • kctc says:

      As a grad of old MU, I would love to see a team in Southeast Ohio. But it won’t happen as Yeager Stadium isn’t in a prime location and would need a significant overhaul to host MLS games. Plus I doubt the corporate sponsorship is in place. But hey, its Beckham and a Bolivian billionaire, Im sure they could work something out.

  5. chuck says:

    Also, rumor in Mexico is that Chivas USA was already sold by Vergara but the new group wasn’t just ready to take over. Would stay in LA and be announced after the WC; there’s the chance of it being named Aztecs and having Mexican coach Benjamin Galindo at the helm.

    link to sancadilla.net

    • Lorenzo says:

      Didn’t we try this experiment?

    • whoop-whoop says:

      Doesn’t make sense…. Chivas was already sold by Vergara… to the current owner which is: MLS… who immediately announced a pending brand change and that they had no intention of moving the team from LA. If this other hypothetical group that is purportedly not ready ever wants to buy, it won’t be from Vergara, but MLS. Kind of doubt they would turn around and sell to another Mexican ownership group. If there is any truth to the story, it is probably an older deal that fell through before MLS stepped in.

  6. Andy says:

    Instead of forcing soccer into markets that aren’t ready for teams, why not put a team in America”s Original Soccer City, St. Louis? I get MLS wants a second team in New York, as well as tapping in to the markets in the south, but are these markets ready for MLS. Miami had one of the greatest teams in MLS History, and still couldn’t make it, and Atlanta has been know to be a not so great sports town. St. Louis is an obvious choice for two main reasons. 1. It is Soccer City USA, for years some of the best american players have come from St. Louis, and the number of youth players in the area is incredible 2. Natural Rivalry with Sporting KC. Sporting have been a model franchise for the last couple years shouldn’t MLS want a rivalry for their top performers, Red Bull have Henry and don’t even fill their stadium. They have rivalries in pacific northwest, california, canada, texas, and the east coast. Give Sporting a legitimate rival, and both teams would benefit. Thats my rant

    • Nate Dollars says:

      why is st. louis “Soccer City USA”? i’d never heard that. who are these ‘best american players’ from there?

      • William the Terror says:

        This was the case a long time ago. Back in the seventies. St. Louis was the hub of US Soccer at the amateur level and St. Louis was a college powerhouse in the NCAA.

      • William the Terror says:

        Just checked the records. Between 1959 and 1972, St. Louis University won the NCAA men’s soccer title nine times. While that is impressive, it was a long time ago. And it was college soccer.

      • @AndrewShain says:

        Brad Davis, Chris Klein, Pat Noonan, Matt Pickens, Steve Ralston, Mike Sorber, Tim Ream, and Taylor Twellman.

      • Falls City Outlaw says:

        Also, watch “Miracle Match.” St. Louis was the cradle of our 1950 WC team (that + the Northeast). However, I agree that historic soccer community does not an active market make. The fans in that city need to mobilize, get USL or NASL, and get behind that team.

    • foooo says:

      Did you not follow St Louis’s previous attempt to get an MLS franchise?

      You need an ownership group with deep pockets. If St Louis had that, they’d be a candidate.

    • Weston John says:

      St. Louis would be great, but it’s missing a potential owner. No owner (with a large enough bank account) has stepped forward and said they’re interested.

      • EspinDOHla says:

        This.

        You can argue that [insert city here] should have a franchise until you’re blue in the face. Until some one has the cash to make that franchise happen, it’s not going to.

    • Steven C says:

      No $$$$. Every time expansion comes out around St. Louis they can’t get any investors, or at least, a serious bid. It didn’t help that AC St. Louis couldn’t attract any attendance and folded within a couple years.

      • Seriously says:

        How can that be? It’s “Soccer City USA” according to the STL ppl…

        • Southsidered says:

          There is actually a story behind why AC St. Louis folded (it wasn’t attendance, which was solid for D2) but I’d have to use too many big words for the kind of numbnut who says “ppl” to understand it.

    • Sean says:

      More Atlanta bias. Someone give me some concrete numbers about how baseball or basketball attendance relates to how many people will show up at an MLS match (The Braves have decent attendance numbers and the Hawks have terrible ownership). Also let me know when there is an ownership group in St. Louis with the $ and track record like Arthur Blank has.

      • Jim says:

        Reasoning. If the majority of pro sports teams in a particular city have had attendance issues (and had a team relocate recently), it’s logical to assume that same behavior will continue with a new franchise.

        • cps says:

          Maybe we’re all just, ya know, in to soccer. While we do have a lack of identity as a city, you’re about to find out that we’re a burgeoning soccer hotbed.

        • Sean says:

          The Falcons sell out every game, the Braves finished 13 out of 30 in MLB attendance last year (meanwhile Seattle and Kansas City finished towards the bottom – again I ask where is the correlation between MLB and MLS attendance?) and the Hawks have terrible ownership – the same ownership that allowed the Thrashers to be sold to Canada, and the Thrashers weren’t sold due to attendance problems. All I ask is that you not rely on your Atlanta sports bias and instead do some actual research before you just assume that it won’t work.

          • MLSatlanta says:

            Preach.

            Some people will never understand this and continuously revert back to “Atlanta is a bad sports city”

            • BK says:

              I’ve been hearing that tired line about Atlanta sports for over 20 years. It’s a relic from the past that lazy talking heads and imbeciles eat up and regurgitate with ignorant pride.

        • EspinDOHla says:

          Well then, by your reasoning JIm, MLS in ATL will do absolutely fine since the Atlanta Braves averaged 31,465 while the Seattle Mariners averaged 21,747 in 2013.

      • RK says:

        I think Atlanta has a few things going against it that a lot of other cities don’t. 1) College football 2) Transient city of people that don’t care about the local teams as much

        All that said, winning puts butts in seats.

        • RK says:

          One more thing — lack of college soccer in the area. I can’t believe major universities in the south don’t have men’s soccer.

          • quozzel says:

            Uh…have you checked the rankings for ACC college soccer teams? Half the teams in Top-25 are from ACC teams most years.

            Add also Furman – which is in Greenville, SC, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta, which has produced guys like, you know…Clint Dempsey, Ricardo Clark, Shea Salinas, and most recently, Walker Zimmerman (himself a GSA product out of Atlanta)…Furman’s a perennial Top-25 program for a reason.

            • quozzel says:

              Actually, here’s a link to the men’s rankings. One thing that jumps out at me is that there’s literally 6 South Carolina teams in the Top-100 (Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Furman, College of Charleston, South Carolina, Wofford) another 8 in North Carolina, (Wake, Duke, UNC, NC State, Elon, Charlotte, UNC Greensboro.)

              That’s literally 14% of the Top-100. Add in the handful of Top-100 college programs in Florida and Georgia that are any good (UCF, USF, Georgia Southern come to mind) and close to 20% of the Top-100 college teams in the nation come from Region III East…which, incidentally, has zero MLS franchises at the moment.

          • BK says:

            I think this may make a difference there. In the event last night, Garber mentioned 3 new youth academy programs starting up….it’s a good first step. Right now, it’s just Mercer, GA State, and GA Southern as the only D1 programs in GA. Truly astonishing.

        • quozzel says:

          Atlanta has one thing going for it many people don’t realize – one of the largest youth soccer scenes in any city in the USA.

          They’ve got some MASSIVE ATL-area clubs: GSA, Norcross, Concorde Fire, to name just a few…literally half of the Region III East Premier teams come out of Atlanta. Half the players in the ACC come from Atlanta.

          Not a fan of the city itself, but don’t knock the soccer scene there. It’s huge.

        • Danielofthedale says:

          Actually the transient nature of the should not hurt us to bad in this situation and might actually help us. Yes there are lots of Steelers, Cubs, Mets, Celtics fans here but I doubt many of the people that moved here 10-20 years ago had the same attachment to an MLS team. Also people that are not fans of the other teams since they are not their teams they grew up with being able to support a MLS team as their own might be a draw for them.

    • Waterboy says:

      St. Louis is a Cards town. Very hard to compete directly during that season.

    • SonicDeathMonkey says:

      If a city doesn’t have a committed owner ready to plunk down an expansion fee, then why would you put a team there? Your argument in awarding St. Louis a team holds no merit. Orlando, NYFC, and Atlanta all have flaws but the one thing they all have that St. Louis doesn’t, is a guy who wrote a check. Find someone ready to plunk down $70M and get back to us.

  7. Simon B says:

    I really really worry about NYCFC alienating their audience by playing in Yankee stadium. The MLS sort of lives and dies by the gameday experience. Playing in a baseball park puts them behind a big eight ball.

    • EspinDOHla says:

      And the whole Man City connection.

      Did you watch the Jason Kreis mini-doc on KICKTV? They went all in with the whole NYCFC/Man City connection. It’s strange because I thought they were trying to attract everyone in NYC, not just the Man City folks.

  8. Autolycus says:

    For the people that knock the Atlanta decision, take note that the Thrashers situation is not a useful example of anything. They were an abysmal franchise owned by several factions that were arguing and suing each other for most of the time the team existed. The Thrashers made the playoffs only 1 of their 12 seasons. That year, they had better attendance, in some cases by a large margin, than the Bruins, Devils, Blackhawks, Capitals, and Islanders, and was within 200 of the average attendance of the Penguins, all teams in traditional hockey markets that are also generally considered to be “good” sports markets.

    With expansion teams, the product on the field/court/ice means as much as the market. If the team is competitive for the first few years, it will gain traction in the market. If it’s an abysmal failure competitively, nobody will care.

    Look at what Blank did when he bought the Falcons. He rebuilt the image and the brand of the team by hiring good front office execs and making a significant public effort to reach out to the fans and get them into the stadium. Oh, and he did just enough schmoozing with players to start to turn the image around and make it a team that players wanted to play for. I cannot imagine him doing anything else with the MLS team he just spent $70mil on.

    And to anybody that wonders why a DP would want to play in Atlanta instead of NYC, LA, etc… more professional athletes live in the ATL area than anywhere else. The weather is very good, large houses are relatively quite cheap, and there are tons of world-class golf courses that can be played year-round. Oh, and there’s an airport that has non-stop flights to most of the major world cities and many 2nd and 3rd-tier cities in Europe.

    • Sean says:

      This x1000

    • Mason says:

      Yeah… but you’ll have to fly Delta.

    • justascienceguy says:

      Thanks. This was very informative. I will be borrowing the points you made here in future arguments about expansion.

    • MLSatlanta says:

      Very well said. I can see Atlanta being a city that attracts big name players just as much as NY and LA. Not to knock on Salt Lake and SKC, but I’d imagine places like that would be a much tougher sell for a big name foreign player

    • BK says:

      And Atlanta has some of the hottest girls in the country :-)

  9. nasl to el paso tx says:

    Nycfc, miami and atlanta are a must to mls and why over react.
    Nycfc will have the best sss and a vey good and lots of cash :-) nycfc was a must big apple connections
    Miami, beckham is perfect for miami and.he is the only person that can handle miami. He will get a stadium.
    Atlanta, garber and mls and us as mls fans need atlanta, mls needs that tv market, the real south and HOPEFULLY UNCLE ARTHUR, gets a sss in about 7 to 10 years.
    As for markets like orlando, its sad but true that they need to prove more what they got. Like.san antonio, sacramento, minneapolis, indy eleven, because every market is different.
    For instance, i suggest mls to expand to 28 teams. 14 in each conference, have about 8 interleague games, making it a 34 game season, plus playoffs.
    The playoffs wil consist of top 5, with 6 &.7 teams are wildcard and knock out. Seeds 1 & 2 get a bye.
    Oh and team with the most points in their conference wins the conference!!!!! Its a long season
    So its top 5 automatic playoff spot, and 6 &7.are knock.out wildcard game. Seed 1 & 2 get first round bye.
    Oh MLS start MLS2 with 18 or 20 teams

  10. bb says:

    “a shiny new stadium that will open that year and also house the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons”

    You have that backwards. That shiny new stadium will “also house” the MLS team. That’s why this expansion doesn’t feel right to me. The MLS team is not the focus for the owner. It will obviously be the NFL team, and MLS is there to simply fill out the off season calendar. The turf field is another example of the NFL priority.

    It may seem hypocritical of me, as a Seattleite, but turf is needed due to the rain, a field would get absolutely destroyed when it’s shared by an NFL and MLS team. And the fan support was so strong, they needed a larger stadium so sharing with the NFL doesn’t seem as much of a problem. The owners have done a pretty great job.

    However in Atlanta, they already have a team, but instead of “promoting” them like the USL Sounders, they’ve been leapfrogged by a guy with deep pockets. That doesn’t ‘feel right’ to me. What’s going to happen to the Silverbacks? Will there be a division of fans? What demograph will the Falcons FC go after? There’s a lot of questions, and that makes me worry about their success. I want them to be successful, don’t get me wrong, but I worry about it. It seems as if Falcons FC hasn’t emerged as a club out of necessity (the overwhelming support/need/desire for an MLS team in Atlanta) but rather has emerged as a team out of convenience (for the NFL stadium’s owner, and for MLS as one large, but single, check)

    I hope my concerns are unfounded and these worries are proved wrong, good luck Atlanta!

    • Autolycus says:

      >>It may seem hypocritical of me, as a Seattleite, but turf is needed due to the rain, a field would get absolutely destroyed when it’s shared by an NFL and MLS team.<<

      I'd like to point out that the time of year during which the MLS season and then NFL season runs, Atlanta gets FAR more rain than Seattle. And it's the type of rain that will turn a field into a mudpit in a matter of minutes, not hours:

      link to average-rainfall.findthebest.com

      That said, before there was even an MLS expansion announcement, I was disappointed that the fancy new retractable roof stadium Blank is building is not going to have natural grass. I completely understand the reasons, but I'm disappointed.

      But hey, at least Blank promised that no NFL markings will ever been seen on the soccer field!

      • Ian says:

        Way to drop some knowledge. It’s funny how we believe certain narratives based on pop culture. I swore Seattle was the rainiest city in America, but Atlanta receives 27% more rain than Seattle annually.

        No stadium in American must absolutely have turf. I get the benefit when it comes to sharing with a football team, but most of the MLS season is played outside the NFL season anyway.

        • Autolycus says:

          Seattle is actually about average amongst all US cities for yearly rain accumulation. It does, however, have a terribly low number of days with visible sunshine.

          • Sean357 says:

            The things about Seattle rain vs. other places is it rains all the time but not hard. So a lot more rainy days than a place like ATL or Houston where I live but not these rain storms (as least as frequently) in other places where it rains for two hours one day but dumps inches and inches really fast. Clearly people perceive rain based on time spent raining not actual volume of water rained and thus think Seattle is “rainy” when it’s not if looked at by volume.

        • EspinDOHla says:

          Yep. I’m from Mobile (the wettest city) and I thought Seattle had more rainfall until I read an article in the paper a few years ago.

          I guess it’s just our “afternoon showers” are more like “afternoon torrential downpours”!!!

      • bb says:

        That’s true, the rain here is pretty light compared to the downpour-rain that happens in the midwest and south. In an ideal world I’d like to see the Sounders play on grass, and hoped for that in Atlanta, but no NFL lines is better than playing on a baseball field like NYCFC will be!

    • RK says:

      When signing up as a “founder” today, I was encouraged that they were smart enough to ask what kind of seat you would purchase in the future — supporters, fan, or premium.

      MLS always wanted Blank, and the Silverbacks are a minor league club that can’t compete with him, which is why they never even tried.

    • Ryan says:

      “And the fan support was so strong, they needed a larger stadium so sharing with the NFL doesn’t seem as much of a problem.”

      Seattle Sounders USL-1 Attendance before joining MLS
      2005: 2,885
      2006: 3,693
      2007: 3,396
      2008: 3,386

      Atlanta Silverbacks NASL Attendance
      2011: 2,866
      2012: 4,505
      2013: 4,677

      • Mason says:

        But Seattle invented watching minor-league soccer!!!

      • bb says:

        Yes but my point is that the Sounders were promoted so to speak, and built upon that fan base. And the Silverbacks were leapfrogged. So I’m concerned about how that situation will play itself out. Like, are you a Silverback fan? Will you get season tickets for the Falcons FC? Do you think the MLS team will ‘steal’ all the Silverbacks fans and their team will fold?

    • MLSatlanta says:

      In regards to the silverbacks, they had no interest in “being promoted to MLS.” Their ownership stated many times they wanted to stay in the NASL. As a silverbacks fan I feel a bit indifferent on the subject. I love the backs and want them to thrive but what people outside of Atlanta don’t understand is that our hunger for soccer has outgrown the silverbacks. Selling out home games In their 5k seat stadium is great and all but it’s in a horrible location and having an MLS team downtown will only make the game available too more people and it will be a better product.

      I really hope that the MLS team and the Silverbacks work something out.

  11. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    So NYCFC can play in a baseball stadium but Miami can’t? I’m disappointed MLS is going for the entry fees ahead of the SSS. It’s makes for rich owners and a crap fan experience.

    • Jimmy B says:

      Generally I would agree. However, the fan experience seems to be just fine in Seattle and Vancouver. Time will tell if Atlanta can draw those types of crowds, however, from a pure stadium perspective, Atlanta looks to have the best of the bunch. The renderings are absolutely stunning. We aren’t talking about something akin to RFK or Foxborough. The location is pretty ideal as well.

      As for NYCFC, you have an ownership group that has publicly stated that it is willing to spend $400 mln on a new SSS. That would be far and away the largest investment on an SSS in the league’s history. They just have to find the land. It sucks that they haven’t found it already, but that’s kind of the nature of the beast in New York.

      Finally, Miami is only tentatively slated to join the league in 2017. If they don’t get an SSS, they don’t get a team. The announcement was made to drum up public interest, which it has and also probably because Beckham’s purchase clause was going to expire. Anyway, I’m not sure why anybody is upset at this point about that.

  12. nasl to el paso tx says:

    A list of markets for MLS2 teams
    West, san diego, sacramento, vegas, phoenix, san francisco, austin, san antonio, fort worth, el paso, albuquerque, okc, tulsa, a canda market.
    East, detroit, minnesota, milwaukee, tampa bay, birmingham, nc, sc, indy, cosmos, nashville, a canada market, pittsburgh, st.louis, chicago 2, even.baltimore.
    Most of these markets are practically MLS2 ready.

  13. Tony in Quakeland says:

    Deep pocket owners with experience running sports franchises (including perhaps the most famous sports brand in the world) are committing to our league. They are putting teams (or expanding the league presence) in the country’s biggest media markets. Meanwhile, the absolute worst franchise and owner is getting replaced…

    I can see why so many people are complaining

    • B says:

      Agreed. People are totally overreacting. It seems like most folks want MLS to be exactly like a European league where every team has their own SSS with a lovely grass pitch. The sporting landscape in the US is different and always will be. Get over it. The league is expanding into markets it needs to be in.

      • Tony in Quakeland says:

        And if it continues on the same path that it is on, we may get to that point some day.

        And guess what? In ten years, maybe 40K seat stadiums are going to be the norm for our league and people will wonder why we built little 19K seaters all over the place…

        In anycase, what they are doing makes sense (whether or not it meets any one individual’s personal preferences) and the caliber of people coming in are reason for excitment. Many City? The Yankees? Really? You wouldn’t bend the rules to get those guys in?

        • Supa says:

          No you don’t. If their teams don’t win, do you bend the rules on the pitch too? Maybe no off-sides for NYCFC (Hey they have rich owners!) Atlanta United FC Real SC can use their hands (Hey they give MLS a foot print in the south!) all that just so people have two more teams not to watch on TV…….

    • Jimmy B says:

      This.

  14. Amru says:

    These expansions, besides Orlando, are all about drawing bigger tv markets and increasing tv revenue. MLS really needs to increase the tv ratings because that’s ultimately what’s going to decide whether MLS can become a top league. Even though other cities are probably more deserving, they won’t generate the tv ratings necessary for big time tv contracts. So you can see the gamble the owners are taking here and to make it work they are going to have to change a few things, specifically the salary cap as it stands right now won’t provide the on the field product necessary to make this work. Also playing on turf or a baseball field is pretty Busch league and isn’t going to help the on the field product. Really I think there’s too many drawbacks to make this work the way the owners want it to work, but I’m hoping I’m wrong

  15. 46_and_2 says:

    The worst part about Atlanta is yet another team playing on artificial turf. You have to applaud what Seattle and Portland have done with their fans and atmosphere, but it’s still so hard to accept professional games played on turf. It seemed like the SSS requirement was going to minimize that, but they keep bending the rules.

  16. EspinDOHla says:

    What I find comical is that some of the naysayers for expansion on this website are also the first to label someone a EUROSNOB. You have to realize why a lot of folks like me are “Eurosnobs”.

    I’m just not going to fully embrace MLS until I have a team to get behind (ie one that is less than a 9 hour drive from where I live). I support MLS much more than most (by that I mean I watch the game every week on NBC/NBCSN because they are in need of TV viewers) because I really want the US to have one of the best leagues in the world. I also see how the USMNT players did every week. However, I don’t buy any merchandise, I don’t buy the extra MLS live, I don’t really start following the standings until late in the summer.

    Sorry, but until I had a team to get behind, most of my attention went to a higher quality product (European football). However, with yesterday’s announcement of MLS in ATL, my focus is going to be much more on MLS. I can attend games and get behind the team. I’m freakin’ pumped. I’m not just a passive viewer anymore.

    So for the naysayers and ones to label folks Eurosnobs…expansion can be a good thing!

    • JohnnyOrlando says:

      I think the term Eurosnob is not meant so much for people who only watch or support European leagues as it is for those who think the ONLY way to do things is the European way. Like no playoffs, play in winter,promotion/relegation and those kinds of things. They refuse to understand or believe that the United States actually has some good ideas when it comes to soccer. They are too busy trying to copy Europe that they hate tailgates, because they are not “having a drink with the blokes at a pub before the football match”

      If you simply had no interest in the MLS(like many of us in Olrando before we got announced as the 21st team) then that is not snobbery.

      • EspinDOHla says:

        Yeah, I can see what you mean JohnnyO
        But I’ve also seen people getting called out for supporting a Euro team and not an MLS team. That’s what I’m getting at.

  17. USMNT says:

    Being from Atlanta I don’t disagree with anything Ives stated. However, I do think that MLS will be a success because we do have fickle fans, but the fans that will be a fan of MLS are not fickle. Plus, a Mexico vs Nigeria game had 60k in the GEORGIA DOME!

    • slowleftarm says:

      That just means 60,000 Mexicans live in Atlanta. They won’t be at MLS games though.

      • RK says:

        Ah, those were the days when the first question about expansion was “How many Latinos live there?”

        • BK says:

          I caught a little bit of that sentiment in the conference yesterday. Lo and behold, nearly every single person with Terminus Legion colors on was your typical-looking American soccer fan. It’s a little bit insulting when they use the “diverse ethnic” makeup as justification for this. Many more Americans love soccer too, damn it.

  18. SeaOtter says:

    Love how everyone says the only reason this group/city or that group/city got a franchise is because of money.

    Let you in on a little secret. The only reason any group/city in this or any league gets it is because of money. It’s a business built upon a sport.

  19. Alex Gates says:

    I understand MLS’ wanting to expand to the Southeast but I have concerns.

    Let’s start in Florida: I agree with Ives, Orlando seems to be set up the best with a presence of fans and team that is supported. They also have a soccer specific stadium in place. The Miami charade is comical. No set lower division team, fans, or stadium. Just a dream and a millionaire “owner” promising things. My concern with Florida (more of the Miami idea, than the Orlando franchise) is Florida sports fans are some of the MOST unloyal fans. Heat fans show up late and leave early to watch one of the best teams in the NBA. Dolphins fans become less and less every year at least buy attendance standards. People can argue it’s because the Dolphins stadium is a dumb (which it is) but then look at the Marlins. They got a brand spanking new stadium and they’ve won 2 World Series in the past 20 years and each year after they win the fans don’t show up. Orlando, I’m less concerned because it does seem like they have a good fanbase now but just look at the Magic, and other FL teams (Rays, Bucs) and fan support isn’t there whether the team is good or bad. I hope the new Orlando franchise can be the exception and support this team in good times and bad. Miami, I’d be VERY skeptical.

    Atlanta and New York make zero sense to me. Atlanta, another city with no lower division presence, fan support (at least it seems), or team name basically gets a Beckam like treatment with being a large SE city where presence was needed, and a millionaire owner who promises things. Again, I hope I’m wrong because they do have 3 years to get things lined up. New York on the other hand makes ZERO sense. They already have the Red Bulls which has had big name talent and still not always had full attendance. So lets add another team?? If anything, the NY Cosmos in the NASL are more put together and have ideas for a future stadium, where NY FC is another “hopes, dreams, and big promises” idea. No fan base or stadium. And they couldn’t find a more soccer friendly venue in ALL OF NYC than Yankee stadium? Please. Now let me share with you why this is all insane that these cities (with exception to Orlando) should still be in line to get a team.

    Venture to Indianapolis Indiana, a city RICH in sports (Home to not only great teams but fanbases as well with the Colts and Pacers, but home to the NCAA, Indy 500, BIG 10 tourneys, 1 successful Super Bowl, etc.). The soccer presence in Indy has been strong for years even without a team. Just a little over an hour away the IU mens soccer program has always had strong support and won numerous national titles. Indy was also set to be a finalist host city if USA would have won the 2022 World Cup bid. They did however host a very successful Inter Milan vs Chelsea game though at Lucas Oil stadium last summer. Two years ago with no team a fanbase called the Brickyard Battalion started dreaming and leading the charge to get a team to Indianapolis. Again, no team but already establishing an “American Outlaws” type supporter group. After two years Indy Eleven was born and they just hosted their first NASL match last Saturday, on the campus of IUPUI. They took a task that seemed odd but did a great job of expanding the seating capacity and making Carroll stadium (used for college soccer but mainly a track and field stadium) into a true Soccer environment. Oh, they also did a FABULOUS job marketing to a city and had a sold out crowd of 11,048 (Would have been much more if possible). Indy Eleven in its first year has 7,000 season ticket holders. A number they stopped to allow more general fans get exposed. Anyone affiliated with NASL or any level of Expansion soccer in the states had never seen anything like it. The team is also in talks with the state and city to build a soccer specific stadium. I’m not here to tell you Indy should be an MLS franchise today, but what I will say is a city and team was built from nothing. But not without a lot of hard work. And I think the NASL is a good first step for any team/city looking to get to MLS level. Many current MLS teams have gone that route. And if a team like Indy Eleven can play in a more soccer friendly facility in it’s first year with limited resources, how in the hell can NY FC settle on Yankee Stadium? Again, Indy Eleven wasn’t built overnight. It took many years of hard work from many people to build an interest, find an owner/investor, then market it properly. I hope NY FC, Miami, and Atlanta know what the hell they’re in for.

    And if teams like Indy Eleven, San Antonio Scorpions and others are eventually brought into MLS, that would put the league around 30 teams. When do we start talking MLS-1 and MLS-2 with relegation? Just a thought.

    • RK says:

      You can’t use the Rays as an example — new stadium or not, the team habitually dumps payroll and players, even after they said the new stadium would provide more money for a better team. It’s a great stadium, but I would be angry, too.

      As for the Dolphins…they’ve been moribund since Marino left.

      You don’t like Atlanta because they don’t have a team name?

      • Alex Gates says:

        The Rays have had good teams for the past 4 years and continue to hardly have people show up until game 162 and the playoffs.

        Dolphins have been at least decent, and it’s going to take fans to support a team both good and bad for it to succeed in MLS. So fickle fans won’t work.

        I wish I could rewrite my Atlanta opinion. Mainly what others have been saying though. Doesn’t seem to have a strong fanbase and it seems like it’s just a bonus for Blank and not a top priority. I hope I’m wrong about them. I’d rank them 1.) Orlando, 2.) Atlanta 4.) NYFC and Miami. Neither of them gets to be 3 haha.

        • MLSatlanta says:

          Have you based your opinion on Atlanta on any research at all? If you even at the very least watched the press conference you would understand why Atlanta makes sense. To sum it up, Arthur Blank is pure class and he doesn’t half ass anything. He is a natural leader and a winner. He will not put his name on a half assed product.

          As far as support goes, I’m not sure of they showed it on the TV feed but there was hundreds of people gathered outside the press conference building that were there just to celebrate the announcement and to show their appreciation for being awarded a team. And this was just on a random Wednesday in the middle of the afternoon.

          If people think Atlanta is going to have a hard time getting support for the MLS team they’re sadly mistaken.

      • Neal says:

        Please don’t mistake my Rays for the Marlins…
        While near the bottom of attendance, at least they are a well run organization that consistently is playing meaningful games during September.

    • Sean says:

      Congratulations on 11,000 at an NASL game but unless you have an ownership group, money, and a stadium you are stuck with NASL for now.

      • Alex Gates says:

        Thank you, the support in this city for Indy Eleven is palpable. Everyone can’t wait for the next game and the whole season. Agree we definitely have to show it more than 1 year. We do have an ownership group with money. Just a matter of paying our dues. SSS should be granted in the next year.

      • Falls City Outlaw says:

        I don’t understand this “stuck with NASL” sentiment. Louisville is the Falls City and our local supporters group, The Coopers, is THRILLED to be bring USL here next season and are super stoked that we’ll be playing in our downtown AAA stadium, Slugger Field. It’s seriously going to be great. I’m very proud of what our friends in Indy have accomplished, even as I hope we can clash in preseason friendlies and play for the most important trophy in US history – the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

    • JohnnyOrlando says:

      Using baseball isn’t fair.There are 162 games a year and most of the people who go to baseball games in Florida are transplants who are stupid and refuse to adopt their local teams. Also the Rays stadium sucks and so does St.Pete.

      As for Orlando, I can tell you that it won’t be a problem. Right now we are forced to play at Disney because of renovations to our normal stadium and our new one is still being financed. We sell out Disney even though its only like 5k in highschool style stands. Once we are in MLS and have all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it 17-20k a game won’t be a big deal. Especially with our 2 SGs doing what they do. Orlando is still in Florida, but its a much different place than Tampa or Miami. MLS failed there once before and left a bad taste in the mouths of the fans. Mutiny games were pathetic. With a SSS Orlando games will be entertaining and that alone will drive up attendance. Our team has been great for our 3 seasons in the USL but the reason our attendance has grown is because of the supporters culture which provides the energy and the pretty pictures the team uses for advertisements. Not to mention if our owner gets his friend Kaka to come that will help. Brazilians are the #1 tourists to Orlando and I would bet my house that they will buy tickets to the games in droves. As for the other teams, I cannot say but as an Orlando City supporter I can guarantee that it will be successful for a long time. Of course teams go up and down, even the Lakers had trouble in the 90s before Kobe. But that is sports, sometimes you are up and the games are all sellouts and sometimes you suck and they are not. As long as the price of a ticket is around $20 things will be good. Nobody wants to pay $80 to watch a team lose.

  20. Sean says:

    If anyone has a good study done relating attendance of other major sports to attendance for MLS in the same city please link me to it. I’m guessing there isn’t one but I’d love to see it if there is one.

  21. EQeki says:

    My thoughts are its all cheap ownership groups underestimating the growth of MLS

    Im beyond tired of these stadium designs that are 20,000 seats.

  22. McQ says:

    Back to the Future…Atlanta playing on gridlines, NYCFC playing on dirt in front of 6,000 people.

    • Autolycus says:

      Except ATL won’t be playing on gridlines. Blank was pretty clear the NFL lines would never be seen on the soccer field.

  23. beto says:

    Im more interested in what is happening in LA… Id figure that out b4 adding 4 others

  24. Ivan says:

    Atlanta: another artificial turf stadium. I refuse to support this pre-packaged artificial league.

    NO TO ARTIFICIAL TURF!

  25. Brendan says:

    “But the past year has shown that those requirements were mere guidelines or a wish list that MLS was okay with overlooking if it felt certain markets had other selling points and plenty of potential.”
    – Just ask Rochester – i.e. screwed