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Future of MLS Expansion: Orlando yes, Atlanta maybe?

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The future of MLS expansion, set to reach 24 teams by 2020, got a bit clearer this week with the approval of funding for a downtown Orlando soccer specific stadium to be the home of Orlando City. The Atlanta Falcons have included soccer renderings in their quest to secure a new stadium.

Al Messerschmidt

The future of MLS expansion, set to reach 24 teams by 2020, got a bit clearer this week with the approval of funding for a downtown Orlando soccer specific stadium to be the home of Orlando City. While not yet secured in the case of New York City FC (which is looking more and more at risk of repeating the mistakes of LA2), expansion efforts appear directly tied to stadiums. Secure a place to play, and MLS will find a way to include you in expansion plans.

The success of the Seattle Sounders partnership with the Seattle Seahawks (who built their stadium with soccer in mind) has other NFL teams in need of stadiums including soccer in their plans to justify the expensive and massive structures which sit empty outside of eight (ten at best) days a year. With most every city moved on from the days of baseball/football combinations, football/soccer seems to a better fit.

The Minnesota Vikings have included soccer renderings in their quest to secure a new stadium, as have the Atlanta Falcons. If MLS were to grant expansion franchises and they had their own identity and culture (unlike the New England Revolution, whose name and colors are derivative of the NFL franchise they share a stadium with) there's no reason the relationships couldn't work out.

Minnesota and Atlanta are NASL cities, which has no history of cooperation with MLS. In fact the NASL New York Cosmos have a history of battling with MLS over future stadium space. Orlando City on the other hand is a USL Pro team with Sporting Kansas City as a partner.

Though the leaked images from last month were revealed to be out of date, they show Orlando City as willing to go in the direction of Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. Small box soccer specific stadiums are great small footprint projects in downtowns. In the case of the San Jose Earthquakes their enclosed small box stadium has an open end, but should be the sort of small fan focused ground that has worked so well for SKC.

Hopefully soon DC United will have some stadium renderings to show the public. Is past time for LA 2 (I'm leaving off the branding because, honestly, it's not a sure thing right now) to pick a stadium project and execute it. When all of MLS is playing in revenue generating stadiums tailored to their needs, we can christen it MLS 3.0 and it shall be a glorious day.