The MLS has announced the next wave of expansion candidates.
Announced Wednesday, November 29th, the following teams have been chosen as the final four to get a chance of landing a new MLS franchise. Following the success of Atlanta, a solid year from Minnesota, and a second LA team joining the league. Cities and potential owners are looking to join the league as it fills in a 28 team league. While there are still many bids out there, the MLS has made it clear that of the following cities: Nashville, Cincinnati, Sacramento, and Detroit, will get to duke it out for the next two teams to join the league.
It is important to note that this isn’t the end for cities that had bids in, including St. Louis, this is just for the next two slots. Don Gaber has mentioned that the league wants to expand to 28 teams. This wave will put the league at 26 teams. Leaving Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg to battle for the final two slots.
So how could each city win an MLS team? The usual mixture of rich people getting tax dollars for stadiums mixed with cookie cutter loans and deals meant to please the league. But other than that, here is what they have to offer.
Nashville: pop. 624,261 1.75M metro area
The popular tourist city for weekend getaways and parties has plenty of great amenities, and a population to support the team. Coming off a Stanley Cup appearance with the Nashville Predators, it’s clear that once fans back a sport, it can do well. According to their demographic reports, there has been growth in population with a healthy job market backed by a strong health care jobs market. They add on average 100 new citizens a day and expect to hit over 2.5 Million citizens by 2035. Their challenge will be starting off on a good note and drawing fans, something the Predators did struggle with until recently. Nashville’s ownership group is John Ingram (CEO Nashville Soccer Holdings), the Wilf family (Vikings owners), and the Turner Family (Managing Partner of MarketStreet Enterprises)
Cincinnati: pop. 290,000 2.12M Metro Area
Sitting on the river boarder of Kentucky and Ohio, the 25th largest city in America has seen it’s population drop over the past decade. The median age does sit at 32 years old. right in the heart of the demographic of who is turning to soccer as a sport they follow. Cincinnati shot up the boards with the debut of USL team FC Cincinnati. They set many attendance records for the USL. Currently drawing 22,000 a match. The MLS should see no problem expecting 25,000-30,000 fans per match. The ownership group is Carl Linder III (CEO of FC Cincinnati) and Scott Farmer (CEO of Cintas Corporation).
Sacramento: pop. 495,234 2.4M Metro Area
The heavily favored city to get the nod puts another team in California and on a coastline. However, it is well deserved. Sacramento Republic FC has been a champion of attendance and success in the USL, and the ownership has seemed to be all in on growing the brand. Bringing a brand in that is established is a positive for the team (though a downer for the local merchandise vendors). This city, (of all four teams listed) has the most diversity with the city being 33% Caucasian, 28% Latino, and 18% Asian. Their ownership is strong with Kevin Nagle (Part owner of the Kings, and managing partner of Sac Soccer & entertainment), Jed York ( 49er’s CEO), Mark Friedman (Minority owner of the Kings)
Detroit: pop. 677,116 4.3M Metro Area
After a quick back and forth about the original plan was to have the team in Ford Field. Then the MLS and potential owner Dan Gilbert (Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers), Tom Gores (Detroit Pistons owner) backed by the Ford family has some serious financial firepower to make just about anything happen. Detroit is always looked at as a once was city. The bid is a part of the hope to get the city the spark plug it needs to kickstart the rebuild that in some areas of downtown Detroit has begun. Detroit has many pro sports franchises and they tend to be supported well. Could be a good selling point for the 4.3 Million living in the Detroit area.
It’ll be interesting to see how these financial deals play out because with the new potential tax cuts and reform (as off 11/30 nothing has passed yet). A part of the reform is said to attempt to end the line of code allowing for federal tax dollars to be used for stadium building and tax exemption for them being built. On average about 200 million in tax dollars are spent on stadium building. It could throw a wrench in some cities plans. Not likely, but something to keep an eye on.
With just two potential slots left the favorites right now look like Indianapolis, San Antonio, San Diego, and St. Louis. Though do not sleep on Louisville maybe getting into the mix.