Options For Expansion

[See part 1 here]

Expansion depends on a lot of different factors: a wealthy and committed ownership group, an amenable local government, the economic climate and the country. Therefore league expansion is not something that can simply be determined by the league in its corporate headquarters. However, given the last round of expansion into smaller markets, there are markets I believe the league has to move to expand its profitability and the game.

Lets assess MLS’s presence throughout the country.

Pacific Northwest:
When 2009 started MLS had no presence in the Pacific northwest, when 2011 season starts, MLS will have a greater presence in this soccer friendly region than any other professional sport. This region will be saturated.

California: Three teams, one in the south bay in San Jose and two LA teams playing in the same stadium. Chivas has been a disappointment and I think in retrospect a franchise focused on a specific ethnic group was a mistake and has created what has at times been an ugly rivalry with their “Gringos” rivals. Furthermore, LA is a huge city geographically, yet Chivas plays in the same stadium as the Galaxy. This is a waste of a franchise in terms of expanding the geographic breadth of the league. Additionally, San Jose has yet to get a stadium and are located in the south bay, a considerable distance from San Francisco proper and the East Bay cities of Oakland and Berkley. Major cities with no team: San Diego, San Francisco/Oakland (North and East bay)

South/Florida: No team in a region of 60 million people. Major cities with no team: Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Tampa, New Orleans, Memphis/Nashville.

Midwest: The league has a team in the largest market in the region (Chicago) and teams in small-mid-size cities Columbus and Kansas City. Columbus despite being a smaller city is not all that much smaller than Cleveland or Cincinnati and with few other professional sports and its central location within Ohio, I think it is a well placed team. It is within driving distance of Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh but needs to do more to capture those markets. Kansas city is another story and I think it was a prime target for relocation, but now that a stadium is happening this franchise is a given and at least gives the league a presence in the lower Midwest. St. Louis clearly has a storied soccer tradition and has been an expansion contender. Detroit is also a large metro area but is in the midst of a bitter economic decline. Major cities in Midwest with no team: St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee.

Southwest: While there are two teams in LA, there are no teams in what was a rapidly growing region. However, this was also the epicenter for the housing boom. Nevertheless, this is a populous region with a very large and growing Hispanic population. Phoenix is the 12th largest market in the country, USA games against Mexico have had an amazing turn out and atmosphere, and Hispanics make up more than 40 percent of the population. Furthermore, Vegas is America’s party/entertainment capital and is a much larger market than many current MLS cities. Major cities with no team: Phoenix, Las Vegas.

Northeast: With the addition of Philadelphia the league now has a very sold presence in this region’s major markets. Disappointingly, New England plays in Foxboro, well outside Boston and the Red Bulls have failed to capture the New York market. New York is the largest market in the country and with the Red Bulls in Jersey there is space for another team in Queens or Brooklyn. Montreal is also a large city in relative proximity to New York and Boston. Montreal and New York City (Queens/Brooklyn)

Canada: Canadians seem to have taken to soccer a bit more than Americans, perhaps due to the similarities in the flow of the game between hockey and soccer. Toronto has been a huge success and Vancouver is likely to be another very solid market and will create both a Pacific northwest rivalry as well as Canadian rivalry. While beyond Montreal there are few obvious cities for expansion, it does seem quite likely however that a team in a small-market Canadian city would do very well. Major cities with no team: Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton.

Texas:
With teams in Dallas and Houston the league has teams in the two major cities in the second most populist state. With such a large and growing Hispanic population, expansion to the other major cities in Texas should not be ruled out. Major cities with no teams: San Antonio and Austin.

What does this tell us? Clearly there are a lot of options relating to expansion and a lot of good cities. But the most glaring void is in the south. Montreal also seems like a clear choice and obvious choice given the presence of a strong owner, a stadium, and it being a major city in a strong Canadian market. However, there is also an argument for the southwest and the upper-midwest. Cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, St. Louis, Detroit all have a certain appeal – whether for market size or intangibles.

Next up, expansion cities.

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5 Responses

  1. Funny.

    “South/Florida: No team in a region of 60 million people. Major cities with no team: Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Tampa, New Orleans, Memphis/Nashville. ”

    Yet you basically just did exactly what MLS does. Spend your time and attention somewhere else.

    Lame.

  2. Very interesting article. Couldn’t be written any better. Browsing this post reminds me of my old bud. He constantly kept speaking about this. I will send this post to him. Am sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Agree with Chris, why only mention the 60million people and not make a point to why the MLS NEEDS a team in the South!

    Poor.
    Brian

  4. Yes there is a void in the south, Atlanta and Miami would be my two favorites at the moment in that region. Eventually all of these cities will have teams and the league will be massive,but they need to play quality soccer to attract huge crowds and develop more American players.

  5. hello!,I like your writing very a lot! percentage
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