MLS Expansion: 10 Best and Worst Places for Major League Soccer to Expand

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IFebruary 3, 2011

MLS Expansion: 10 Best and Worst Places for Major League Soccer to Expand

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 01:  A general view of atmosphere is seen before the announcement of the return of The New York Cosmos at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on August 1, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New York Cosmos)
    Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

    Major League Soccer has come a long way from its humble beginnings at the dawn of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Now there is talk of the league expanding to accomodate more teams.

    At one point in time, you may see as many as 25 teams taking part in this competition.

    Which markets deserve a shot at expansion? And which markets don't? Bleacher Report investigates.

Worst: Honolulu or Anchorage

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    Obviously this is a no-brainer. Why should Hawaii or Alaska be considered to be MLS markets to begin with?

    Hawaii does have a decent climate for football, but the travel costs make this venture impossible, even with Aloha Stadium passing off for a decent football pitch.

    As for Alaska, not a chance. Stick to hoops or ice hockey, you folks up there! Say no to far-flung states, MLS.

Second Worst: Los Angeles

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    CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 03:  David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy plays the ball through midfield on the counterattack against Chivas USA during the MLS match at The Home Depot Center on October 3, 2010 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated Chiva
    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    We've already got the Galaxy. We've already got Chivas. Why should there be a third MLS team in the Los Angeles area?

    It's ridiculous. This market is already saturated with two viable sides and is off limits to expansion.

Third Worst: Boston

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    FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16:  Fans of the New England Revolution react during a game against the Kansas City Wizards at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Revolution won 1-0. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Like the New England Patriots have a grip of Boston, the state of Massachusetts and the New England region in the NFL, so do the Revolution in MLS.

    A second Boston team is completely unnecessary, and is a market that is also off limits. Never mind that it also has the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics as other major players...

Fourth Worst: Chicago

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    BRIDGEVIEW, IL - OCTOBER 16: Brian McBride #20 of the Chicago Fire reacts to an offside call playing his last game against  D.C. United in an MLS match on October 16, 2010 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (Photo by Da
    David Banks/Getty Images

    Just like Boston, Chicago already has the Fire as their flagship MLS side. It already has to contend with the Bulls, the White Sox and Cubs, the Blackhawks and Da Bears for exposure.

    Chicago does not need a second team to share the rent with the Fire at Bridgeview's Toyota Park. This city is off limits to expansion.

Fifth Worst: Any Major City in the Pacific Northwest

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    SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 31:  A fan of the Seattle Sounders FC looks on during the 1st leg playoff game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Qwest Field on October 31, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. The Galaxy defeated the Sounders 1-0. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/G
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Seattle's has their Sounders. Portland's has their Timbers. And Vancouver's has their Whitecaps.

    Other cities in the region like Tacoma, Spokane, Boise, Victoria or Eugene should not even be mentioned as viable MLS cities. You already have your Cascadia Cup power trio that will be fighting each other for bragging rights, so no more expansion is necessary.

    Three cities is enough. The Pacific Northwest: off limits.

Sixth Worst: Columbus or Any Small-to-Medium Sized City in the Midwest

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 6:  Robbie Rogers #18 of the Columbus Crew celebrates a Crew goal against the Colorado Rapids  during the second leg of the MLS playoff match on November 6, 2010 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Image
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Columbus already has the Crew. They don't need any other team. Cleveland is out of the equation, because Columbus already has their back.

    And who would think that Des Moines, Iowa would be a good place for Major League Soccer to expand. Just make the drive down to Kansas City, Kansas and support Sporting, will you?

Seventh Worst: San Francisco/Oakland

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    SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 20:  The sun sets over Buck Shaw Stadium before a game between the San Jose Earthquakes and Chivas USA on October 20, 2010 at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, California.  The Earthquakes won 3-0. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Imag
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Curse you, San Jose. You destroyed any hopes for San Francisco or Oakland to get their own MLS team back in 1996.

    Yes, those San Jose Earthquakes are not just representing the Silicon Valley. They are also representing San Francisco and Oakland. It's the entire San Francisco Bay area.

    San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and Santa Clara County. All covered by the Quakes. Sorry MLS, but this market is off limits.

Eighth Worst: Baltimore

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    Baltimore does not need an MLS team. There is a certain team that is already representing their town, just down the I-95.

    It starts with DC, and ends with United. Yeah, I figured you would know what I'm talking about.

Ninth Worst: Las Vegas

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    Even though Glitter Gulch will lay claim to fame as the place where MLS was officially launched, it does not need an MLS team.

    Who would want to play in a city that is like Doha during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, but without the air conditioners?

    If you were to put your money on Las Vegas getting a team, the house would gain the advantage.

Tenth Worst: Any City in North Carolina

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    Attention, attention...the Carolina Railhawks and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill already dominate the soccer market here in the Tar Heel State.

    Albeit, the Tar Heels play under rules that won't really prepare its players for the big time, but that's a different story.

    Oh yes, and the Charlotte Eagles also play in USL PRO and are primed for a big year. North Carolina does not need an MLS team, end of story.

Tenth Best: San Diego

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    SAN DIEGO - MARCH 28:  Goaltender Erika Vanegas #1 of Mexico pulls the ball out after a USA goal during the Women's International Friendly Soccer Match between Mexico and the United States at Torero Stadium on March 28, 2010 in San Diego, California. USA
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    A city with a rich soccer tradition (and Club Tijuana of the Liga de Ascenso is next door!) deserves to have an MLS team, to rub shoulders with the Padres and Chargers and Aztecs. And the Toreros, too.

    While its fans flock up north to Carson to watch Chivas USA or the Galaxy, San Diego fans won't have to drive far if they get one of their own.

    America's Finest City is ready for MLS. Come, all you interested owners and businesspeople.

Ninth Best: Minneapolis-St. Paul

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    A Major League Soccer team in Minneapolis would be a welcoming sight for fans used to watching the Wild, the Vikings, the Timberwolves and the Twins.

    Currently, there is a team called the NSC Minnesota Stars, which competed in the non-sanctioned North American Soccer League. Could it be a cry for help?

Eighth Best: Phoenix

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    The Phoenix area is home to the USSF Development Academy Winter Showcase, and has a rich soccer tradition, in the same mold as San Diego.

    As one of the largest cities in the country, having an MLS side in the Valley of the Sun could result in intense rivalry opportunities with Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids.

Seventh Best: Detroit

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    Last year, Detroit hosted an international friendly between AC Milan and Panathinaikos, which drew about 30,000 to the Pontiac Silverdome.

    Greek-Canadian Andreas Apostolopoulos, the new owner of the Silverdome, has made it a priority for the city of Detroit to have its own MLS team. In the process, the Silverdome would either be renovated, or a new stadium would be created in its place.

    In a city dominated by the Tigers, the Red Wings, the Lions and Pistons, is Detroit ready for Major League Soccer? Bleacher Report thinks so.

Sixth Best: Ottawa

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    All right, so there are Canadian MLS teams in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, with the latter set to begin play next year.

    But what about other cities in Canada looking to get a piece of the pie?

    One city that could become the fourth is Ottawa, Ontario, the nation's capital. Frank Clair Stadium, as part of Lansdowne Park, is undergoing redevelopment as a prospective venue for a Canadian Football League team. And of course, it has hosted many soccer matches before, the most recent being those from the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

    The Ottawa Fury, a side that competes in the USL Premier Development League, is looking to field a professional team for the 2013 season at Frank Clair.

Fifth Best: St. Louis

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    St. Louis is a city that feels they are up to the challenge of fielding a successful MLS team.

    But it can't settle for a team playing in the minor leagues, as was the case for the failed venture that was A.C. St. Louis. The only team that is relevant in the area are the St. Louis Lions of the PDL.

    The right investments need to be made before St. Louis gets its MLS team. But with the Cardinals and Rams garnering success in years past for their respective sports, there is no reason why it can't be the same in Major League Soccer.

Fourth Best: Tampa-St. Petersburg

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    The Tampa-St. Petersburg area previously had the Mutiny as one of the original MLS teams, but after a few seaons, they folded.

    Still, this is a region that deserves a second chance at fielding a successful, financially viable team in MLS.

    The city is used to success as a championship town, with the Tampa Bay Rays (American League), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) and Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL) winning league championships in the past decade.

Third Best: Atlanta

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    KENNESAW, GA - OCTOBER 2:  Goalie Luna Huang #18 of the People's Republic of China Women's National Soccer Team punches the ball to make a save during the game against the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium on Oc
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    The South tends to be overlooked by Major League Soccer in the expansion race. If the league has no plans to dive into Florida, it can always look to Atlanta, Georgia as beachhead.

    Already Atlanta—known for its Thrashers, Falcons, Hawks and Braves—is stating its case with the arrival of the Atlanta Beat in Women's Professional Soccer and the continued longevity of the NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks. 

    The success of both the Silverbacks and the Beat, as well as the support, will be determining factors as to whether or not MLS decides to expand into Atlanta within the next ten years.

Second Best: Miami

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    The early days of MLS saw the Miami Fusion play their matches at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium, which is now the current home of Miami FC of the NASL.

    Expansion of Lockhart Stadium or the construction of a new soccer-specific stadium in the city will be needed if MLS decides to give Miami a second look.

    Otherwise, the Miami metropolitan area—known for the Heat, the Dolphins, the Florida Panthers and the Florida Marlins—have the potential of fielding a team in MLS in the future.

Best: New York City

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 01:  Soccer Legend Pele (L) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces the return of The New York Cosmos at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on August 1, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for the New Yor
    Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

    This is where MLS will most likely expand next: their own backyard. The league offices are located in New York City. It has been one of MLS Commissioner Don Garber's wishes and three words tell the writing on the wall.

    New York Cosmos.

    The revival of the Cosmos can only mean one thing: the search for the next MLS expansion team may be drawing to a close. If the Cosmos are indeed the 20th MLS side, the seeds of a rivalry with Harrison, New Jersey's Red Bull New York will be sown.

    The Cosmos will need to secure a stadium, and if the borough of Queens can give the green light and construction can take place in earnest, the next team in Major League Soccer will be in the heart of New York City.


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