During halftime of a forgettable all-star game, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced the league plans to add four clubs by 2020, raising the total to 24.
A second side in the New York area was approved earlier this year as the 20th team, starting play in 2015. So five new teams are actually on the way.
Where would the next four land?
Orlando is a clear front-runner and prospective investor David Beckham is flirting with Miami. Minneapolis and Atlanta might try to tie new NFL stadiums into MLS bids. San Antonio, Detroit and Sacramento seem eager. St. Louis has been in and out of the mix for years. Would Raleigh come into play? How about Phoenix, San Diego or Pittsburgh? Dare we say (again), Las Vegas?
The process of determining future sites is not as simple as unfolding a map and pointing to areas of the country (or countries, if any Canadian cities come forward) without a first-tier club nearby.
MLS’s criteria is clear:
*”Committed and engaged” ownership. (Translation: Show us the money. Tens of millions of it.)
*Comprehensive stadium plan. (You better have an awfully good current set-up or unveil blueprints for a 17,000 to 25,000-seater.)
*Demonstrated fan support for pro soccer. (Let’s see your attendance figures for international friendlies and other soccer events.)
*Support from sponsors, TV partners and other constituents. (The business and media has to have your back.)
*Geographic location. (Sorry, Providence. Two teams are already down the road, one is up the road.)
*Strategic business plan. (Don’t make us turn this car around, Sparky!)
IF the league reaches 24 teams, and IF the two-conference alignment endures, what would the schedule look like? Probably like this: home and away against the other 11 teams in the conference (22 matches) and one apiece against each club in the other division (six home, six away) for a total of 34.
All teams wouldn’t arrive in the league at the same time, however. So scheduling would remain a headache and the number of matches could fluctuate.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The league says: “MLS has engaged in exploratory discussions with multiple markets and potential owners regarding future expansion. During the coming months, the league will provide additional details regarding the process and timeline for future expansion.”
As for the all-star game at sold-out Sporting Park in Kansas City, Roma scored early in each half and won, 3-1. Omar Gonzalez‘s header in stoppage time shattered the shutout. [Video package]