It was made public knowledge that MLS Commissioner Don Garber would meet with San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julián Castro and the owner of the San Antonio Scorpions Gordon Hartman to discuss the option of MLS expansion.
There likely won’t be any kind of immediate action that comes from the get-together, but it does give a clue of what the league’s options will be in the coming future. Garber himself announced that MLS expansion will target a total of 24 teams by the year 2020. Counting the additions of Orland City and New York City FC, who will begin play in 2015, there are only three slots left before MLS expansion dries up.
The current rumor is that former player and superstar David Beckham will be soon bring the beautiful game into Miami. Let’s assume that this is the most likely city to be added, because, let’s face it, it seems imminent. That leaves only two chances to join America’s top soccer league.
In Garber’s ‘State of the League’ speech in early December, a map was shown with locations marked for possible expansion locales. Of course Miami was one, but the other cities that were pointed towards were Atlanta, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and San Antonio.
I’ve heard it said several times that Atlanta would be a great designation and has a strong chance to join the league. The Atlanta Silverbacks, part of the NASL, are a team ready and waiting to be called up to the “bigs”.
The Minnesota United FC seem to have a strong supporting and there isn’t really a team that gives the Northern Midwest soccer fan any one to root for other than the Chicago Fire. It’s common knowledge that people from Minnesota and Wisconsin find it hard to root for Chicago teams.
Some people credit St. Louis as the cradle of soccer, the place where soccer started to take off in the States. The majority of the 1950 U.S. World Cup team consisted of mostly St. Louisians. The town loves their sports and a soccer team would go over well, but the fact that the city doesn’t even have a lower-division soccer team currently really hurts their chances.
San Antonio remains as one of the best options for Garber to consider. The Scorpions draw some of the largest average crowds in the NASL, a near 7,000 average in 2013. The stadium they play in currently sits 8,500 but has room to easily expand to around 18,000 if needed. The one flaw in San Antonio’s candidacy is their location — Texas already has two teams.
Another option that may be worth considering would be the replacement of Chivas USA. The LA team clearly plays second fiddle to the Galaxy, and it seems that several other cities are ready to fill their new team’s stands at a moment’s notice. Chivas has spent the past several years at the bottom of the league in attendance and points.
Which ever way MLS decides to expand will be interesting to watch. Will growing the league too fast become an issue for player quality? Will we have to wait until 2020 to get all 24 teams, or can they start playing a little sooner? What happens to the lower divisions if teams keep getting poached from them? They’re all questions that will be answered in the years to come as MLS and soccer continue to grow in America.