MLS is a league on the rise. Soon it will be one of the most popular leagues in the country, but to rise to the level of the MLB or NBA, it will need to cover all of the major TV markets. Well, a lot of those markets are bidding to get the 17th and 18th spot in Major League Soccer.
Atlanta, Ottawa, Vancouver, Portland, Miami and Saint Louis all are being considered to be the next MLS teams. Here I will look at these bids as an overview and later in the month I will do a more in-depth look for each of them.
Why Atlanta?: Atlanta is home to franchises in the four major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). They have a rich sports history with hosting the Olympics in 1996 and having a longtime NFL franchise. They already have had a USL-1 team in the Atlanta Silverbacks. Arthur Blank definitely has the money to support another pro franchise.
Why Not: Well, the Silverbacks are inactive right now, but it is unknown if that is because of the chances an MLS team is coming. Atlanta sports teams always seem to be low in attendance. The southeast is an unpopular market for MLS. The MLS Atlanta pitch has one of the smaller grassroots support.
Why Miami: Miami would be owned by FC Barcelona, the Spanish giant. They have their stadium built so there will be no money issues like what is going on in Philly. Miami is one of the largest TV markets in the country.
Why Not?: Miami has already had a failed team in the Miami Fusion. They do not plan to have a soccer specific stadium as they are using FIU's football stadium. A lot of people do not like having Barca being involved as it makes MLS look bush league.
Why Ottawa?: Ottawa would be owned by Eugene Melnyk, the owner of the Sens. Canada has already had a franchise with outstanding fan support in Toronto FC. They have amazing stadium plans.
Why Not?: Ottawa isn't regarded as a major soccer city. They don't have a USL franchise. It's doubtful Garber would take Ottawa over Vancouver.
Why Portland: The Pacific Northwest has always had extreme soccer support. Portland already has a major rival in Seattle in MLS. Portland has a stadium that just needs renovations to become MLS-worthy.
Why Not: Even though they would be the main tenants, they would be sharing a stadium. The Pacific Northwest just got a team. Portland is a small TV market.
Why St. Louis?: St. Louis is rich in soccer history. There is a large grassroot campaign to get a team in St. Louis. There is a solid stadium plan in a nearby suburb.
Why Not: There is no USL team in St. Louis. They do not have a metropolitan stadium plan which can hurt fan support.
Why Vancouver: Like Portland, they are in a strong market. The Vancouver Whitecaps are an extremely popular USL-1 team. They probably have the best stadium plans. They already have a natural rival in Seattle.
Why Not: Vancouver is in an area that just got an MLS expansion team. They still need to decide on a stadium plan.
Here's my order of favorite bids.
3. St. Louis
However, I think it will end up being Miami and Vancouver that get a team. So for better or for worse, FCB Miami and Vancouver Whitecaps FC will be MLS franchise in 2011.