As most of you know, yesterday, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced the league's intention to add two further expansion teams by the 2011 season, in addition to the arrival of Seattle Sounders FC in 2009 and Philadelphia in 2010. Garber also provided a list of potential markets for expansion, which consists of Atlanta, Las Vegas, Montreal, a second team in New York , Ottawa, Portland, St. Louis and Vancouver.
Most MLS fans seem to have a fairly strong opinion on the matter, so I thought I may as well open up the floodgates, and see what our readers have to say on the matter. Which markets deserve to receive one of these two teams? Which markets are most likely? If you have a voice on the issue, let it out in the comments down below.
Now, for the most important part of the article: my thoughts.
Easily, Montreal should and will receive 1 of these teams. At the moment, the Montreal Impact of the USL have Canada's attention after their recent Canadian Championship triumph, which surely should have the entire city of Montreal paying attention. This is a diverse market that already has great support for a second division side. The current USL team already plays in the brand new Saputo Stadium, which currently only seats just above 13,000, but will be expanded should MLS come. And while some markets may have trouble finding the right ownership and infrastructure for the deal, but Montreal already has committed owners, and has indeed submitted a bid to MLS to purchase an expansion team. This move is all but a slam dunk.
Yet the second spot seems to be a bit tricky. At the moment, long time favorite St. Louis seems to be the front runner, and in all likelihood will receive one of these two teams. Reports from St. Louis claim that the city is extremely close to landing a team. The city likes to call itself the "Soccer Capital of America," and has a long tradition dating back to the prominent St. Louis Soccer League, which began in the 1900's and and was home to some of the earliest successful professional soccer teams such as Ben Millers and St. Leo's. Moving further up the time line, St. Louis left yet another mark on the developing U.S soccer scene, as nearly half of the players on the 1950 U.S National team, otherwise known as the boys who upset England in the World Cup, were from St. Louis. And the St. Louis Stars were founder members of the NASL. Plus, plans have already been made for a stadium in the nearby suburbs. MLS to St. Louis simply makes sense.
Yet, I can't help but deny my desire to see a team in Portland. While the city doesn't have quite the same history as the St. Louis area, the team would be guaranteed not to be lost in the fold of a market with 3 gigantic, popular professional teams in other sports (the Rams of the NFL, the Cardinals of the MLB, and the Blues of the NHL). A Portland team would have little competition by comparison, with only the NBA's Trailblazers to contend with. Portland first tasted soccer with the very successful Portland Timbers franchise in the NASL, and now has a wildly successful USL team by the same name. The Timbers' Army supporters group is incredible in number and voice, and already seems to best most MLS supporters group. You can tell from the large media attention, and from being in the city itself, that Portland pays a surprising amount of attention to their second division club, and a "promotion" to the big leagues seems as though it would boost the stature of soccer in the city to great heights. The Timbers already have a ferocious rivalry with Seattle, which could provide even more excellent competition into the league.
So let's hear it. Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I ignorant? We'll have a good old fashioned discussion on the new issue that seems to be on the minds of every American soccer supporter.