Major League Soccer has three of four expansion targets

Al Messerschmidt

In 2015 the LA Galaxy will have a nineteenth opponent in New York City FC, and from there MLS plans to add four more cities. Orlando, Miami, and San Antonio are known to be amongst the cities Garber is considering

In 2015 the LA Galaxy will have a nineteenth opponent in New York City FC, and from there MLS plans to add four more cities. Luke Wileman tweeted out last night that MLS already has identified three of the four expansion sites, and that came from the mouth of Don Garber.

It is known that Garber took time during the large gathering of the MLS All Star Game to meet with interested expansion groups. Orlando City, and San Antonio are known to be amongst the groups Garber met with, and in previous interviews he's named Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, and Texas as contenders.

This article written shortly after Portland and Vancouver were added to MLS shows which cities have the income base to support a professional team in various leagues. MLS was the cheapest major league to support, with low salaries and smaller stadiums needing less from the local community. Needing $15.4 billion a year, it requires half as much as the NFL, NBA, or NHL. MLB with 82 home games a year and no salary cap requires a large amount of financial support.

Orlando, Miami, San Antonio, and Atlanta all had the income base to support an MLS franchise. If three of the four are from that group, the Eastern Conference is set to add three expansion teams, while the Western Conference will get two expansion teams and two established MLS franchises. That's going to change the shape of MLS significantly over the course of the rest of this decade.

Revisiting that article reminded me that it was written to identify markets that are currently overextended. Three MLS teams play in markets considered to be overstuffed: Denver, Kansas City, and Salt Lake. All three have soccer specific stadiums and aren't likely going anywhere anytime soon. Salt Lake will be fine as the economy recovers, Kansas City is thriving in their new stadium, but Denver could be an issue someday.

As far as expansion is concerned, since that article was written MLS moved into the second best market identified in Montreal, and a second team in New York is a strong move as well (even if it is a bit crowded). Orlando works well as a South-East target since there isn't an MLB team there and Atlanta would be a solid hub for two match Southeast road trips the way teams do two match Cascadia road trips now.

Miami reportedly has the David Beckham backing, but it feels risky with the brand new MLB stadium that isn't being filled and the relatively new MLB expansion team occupying it. That's going to be an economic drain that's going to detract from projects MLS needs done.

I'd rather see MLS go with San Antonio. Looking at other west coast targets, Sacramento is risky with the current instability of their NBA franchise and the need to build them a new arena if they hope to keep them. Las Vegas remains the okay idea no one is willing to take, and Phoenix has an MLB albatross. Albuquerque is too small, San Diego wouldn't be too small if it weren't for their two pro franchises.

Until the announcement comes there will be plenty of speculation. The main takeaway is that as saturated as most markets are, expansion isn't just a matter of choosing a large TV market. Is it adequately supporting its MLB team? Has the city recently built a sports stadium? Is there a soccer supporter culture already in place?

MLS, it appears, already has three targets in mind that adequately answer those questions.

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