Thursday, October 16, 2008

MLS Expansion

Not only have I been somewhat absent from these here parts (have you missed me?), but we at UF will readily admit that MLS is down there with the Hyundai A-League on our priority list. So, this is a two-fer-one post: my personal return to blogdome and our contractually obligated MLS post! Actually, we have had a fair number of MLS posts lately, which I believe far exceeds our quota.

You might recall that bids were due yesterday evening on two additional MLS expansion slots, with the Seattle Drew Careys set for next season and Philly the following year. In the end, seven cities put in proposals. As we covered earlier, the big news is Barcelona FC's proposal in Miami. However, the full list -- which was copied and pasted from Ives' post -- is fairly interesting and should make for a tough decision by that MLS dude Mark Abbott up there.

Atlanta (Arthur Blank)
Miami (FC Barcelona, Marcelo Claure)
Montreal (Saputo and Gillett families)
Ottawa (Eugene Melnyk)
Portland (Paulson family)
St. Louis (Jeff Cooper group)
Vancouver (Greg Kerfoot, Steve Nash, Jeff Mallett)

Get UF's thoughts on which should be the lucky cities to struggle to fill their 12,000 seat brand-new stadiums after the jump.

First off, notably absent from the list was a proposal from the NY Mets, who have talked about landing a team in Queens. Much to the New York contingent here on UF's dismay, the Wilpons decided to postpone putting in a bid so they can concentrate on more late-season collapses by the Mets. Also absent was a proposal from Las Vegas, although the idea of playing footy in 110 degree summer heat would be, well, insane (although Precious Roy would like to point out that it's a dry heat).

Right, so, which two teams should get the nod? Here's our votes:

Lingering Bursitis:

Miami -- any time you're faced with the words "Barcelona" and "investment", you have to say yes. Warm weather, huge latino population and a wealth of Blaugrana infusion. It can't fail! We'll see Barca's next superstars before Spain does!

Montreal -- a vogue pick, and one that could work tremendously well. Montreal is the epicenter of cooler-than-thou music, but the high French population will give them a leg-up when their citizenry grows tired of hockey. Toronto's working well, right guys?


This one is obvious. Montreal and Miami -- two of all too few remaining North American cities that are actually unique and cool. (I mean, really, are Seattle and Atlanta, for example, all that different?). Plus the latino and
quebecois angle is cool. And Montreal-Toronto will make for INSANE
derbies with Toronto.


St Louis -- Huge grassroots support for the game, would create natural rivalries with the other Midwest teams, not as much sports competition in the city from other teams.

Portland -- Rabid fanbase, natural rivalry with Seattle, large hipster population, only one other pro sports team in town. Potential for serious Nike funding....


Portland -- There is a hunger for pro soccer in the Northwest. Bringing
a team to Portland will set up a natural rivalry with longtime
opponents Seattle. Would be best if they agree to a soccer-specific
stadium, though PGE park is ready for them now.

St. Louis -- The home of American soccer, and still a hotbed for the
sport. Their inclusion could be a boost for KC, who need a boost to
jumpstart a flagging soccer-specific stadium drive of their own.

Fan's Attic:

Portland -- Obvious homer reasons aside, great fanbase with long history supporting soccer, no competing sports franchises on top tier, great weather for soccer, natural Seattle rivalry, proposed stadium in heart of city, and given the current economic climate may be a bit more feasible to retrofit an existing stadium to be soccer specific for less cost.

Montreal -- Canada will get another team, might as well be Montreal. Has Toronto as a natural rival, larger fanbase. Montreal has a better ownership group than Vancouver and Ottawa is smallest city being considered.


Miami -- As others have noted, Barcelona FC plus a city with large Latino population seems like a total no-brainer

St. Louis -- Growing up in the Lou, I distinctly remember the Steamers having a decent following at the old Checkerdome back in the 80s. Not sure why St. Louis has always been such a soccer hotbed, maybe all those Catholic and parochial schools, but I think the city could definitely support a team. Plus, no way that Montreal should get it with Gillette as one of the major stakeholders -- if he fucks up an MLS team half as much as he's fucking up Liverpool then, well, that would be pretty fucked.

Precious Roy

St. Louis -- It was the epicenter of soccer in America before there was such a thing. Weren't a number of the guys on the US team that beat England in 1950 from St. Louis? Like Scorsese with The Departed or Clapton with Unplugged, it just seems like St. Louis is due to be rewarded for a lifetime achievement award, even if they don't have the best plan on paper (and a caveat, none of us has seen any of the plans, so we're not really evaluating these along economic lines). Plus it probably helps stoke a rivalry with Kansas City.

Portland -- Similarly, this would make for a great geographic rival for the new Seattle franchise. Portland has already shown it has a strong fan base and putting another team on the left coast would make travel easier for some Western Conference clubs.

And, last but definitely not least, Sven:

Atlanta -- Despite what anybody says, an utterly crap sports town. So, why MLS continues to water down its product with meaningless expansion, why not put a team in Hotlanta for the locals to ignore so it can wither up and die? Granted, the Silverbacks (is that what they're called? the something-Backs) have themselves a decent thing going, but even all that Home Depot money doesn't make this a good idea.

Ottawa -- Are the NHL's Senators still in business? Or have they been moved to a much warmer American climate? While I can locate remote foreign countries that are enduring atrocities you only hear about on NPR, I can't even pick Ottawa out on a map. I can't help but think of 'Wayne's World 2' when Wayne and Garth are playing with the Chroma-key screen -- "Oh, Look! I'm in... Delaware." Ottawa -- Canada's Delaware? Then again, if Columbus can have a successful team, why not Ottawa (or Dover)?

Photo credit: thee MLS


The Fan's Attic said...

I have a feeling Sven's comments were a biting and sarcastic comment on MLS' past decisions.

Mike Georger said...

im sorry but just look at the marlins to see why the latino theory is crap. especially considering how popular baseball is with cubans.

portland and montreal ftw

Anonymous said...

Sarcastic, indeed.

In all seriousness, I tend to agree with LB that Barca in Miami is a no-brainer. I'd also vote for Portland.

Precious Roy said...

Agreed. Miami... Well, he's a recovering crack addict but he needs a place to stay and we've got the room. The Shaqueued Heat were the exception. And even that was only as long as they were winning. Miami is the place where sports go to die.

Except Jai Alai. They love that shit down there don't they?

Precious Roy said...

By 'agreed' I meant with Mike not LB or sven.

JT said...

So the Gilletts are trying their hand at MLS? Maybe they'll leave Anfield to sort out Montreal's soccer aspirations?

Aye, a lad can dream...

Keith said...


there's a lot more to the Marlins attendance story than Miami being a crap sports town-

They play in a football stadium
Within one year of a championship, management conducts a fire sale and reloads with a bunch of young guys, and the team goes through mediocrity or worse for a few years while the team gets its legs under it. The fans, in turn, don't stick around because there's no continuity (or at least a lot less than there usually is with an American team).

Ian said...

Yeah, but Keith the Marlins had a very competitive team this year that looks to get even better and they were drawing like 1,000 people to games. They have one of the most exciting players in the game with Hanley. That is pathetic.

Andrew said...

I like Montreal and Portland. Start some rivalries. Keep the travel costs low by geographically consolidating the conferences. Increase the fanbase.

Can RSL change their name please? There's nothing 'Real' about them.

Keith said...

After the second fire sale, and especially after the trade of Miguel Cabrera to kick the year off, Marlins fans have likely gotten to the point of "why bother if they're just going to be traded in three years' time anyway?"

Precious Roy said...

Keith: Because that's the model they're using. When really good players hit the point where they are going to get PAID, the Marlins move the player in exchange for a boatload of prospects*.

They've figure out that if you get, say, 4-5 prospects back, 2-3 of them might be able to play in the bigs (and play well) almost right away.

Like the Seinfeld joke, you're pretty much pulling for laundry at this point. Does it really matter if you can't pick Mike Jacobs out of a line-up? How many people at Dodger playoff games could distinguish Andre Ethier from James Loney? Winning teams should draw better than 400 people. Even for a day game. Hell, aren't half the people there retired? What else are they doing?

(*I was shocked they signed HanRam... but that guy is totally awesome)

Ibracadabra said...

Cameron Maybin and Jorge Cantu talk aside, let's not forget the Miami Fusion: If Carlos Valderrama built it, and no one came, why will South Floridians miraculously gain interest now?

(I guess you could put together a strong lineup with some Cuban defectors)

Precious Roy said...

Thought Valderamma played for the Tampa Bay Mutiny... who coincidentally folded the same year the Fusion did.

Adam said...

Carlos played for both, though only 1 year at Miami sandwiched between stints at Tampa.

I think the only way that Miami works is if Barca ships over a good chunk of reserves for the team, and maybe throws a first teamer out there on occasion, otherwise it'll fail, just like it did before.

My vote is for Portland for sure, its a town that has a good sports fanbase, they'd be the only sport in town minus I guess the sea dogs, plus like people said it'd give you a natural rivalry with Seattle, and maybe even San Jose.

Second I give the nod to St. Louis, just over Montreal. It just seems like a soccer town for some reason. But Montreal would get a good fanbase I'd imagine if only for the french connection.

Jordan said...

Being from Atlanta I am going to stick up for Atlanta.

Here's my case for Atlanta:

Atlanta is the economic and media hub of the south. Just like the Braves became the South's team in the 90s, so would an Atlanta MLS franchise. Being 2 hours from Greenville, Chattanooga, and Birmingham fans could make the trip. Not to mention the fans that would just watch them on TV and/or buy merchandise to support "their team".

Atlanta would easily support an MLS team and would do so well. Whether you talk about merchandise, attendance, TV ratings, etc. they will perform well. Filling up a 20,000 seat stadium? Easy.

The Atlanta MSA is 5,122,983. From 2000 to 2006 the Atlanta MSA grew by 20.6%. I know Hispanic numbers are thrown a lot around, as if they are the only soccer fans. There are around 312,000 Hispanics in the Atlanta area. Within two hours of Atlanta (these are cities outside of Georgia) you have Greenville (1,000,000 people), Birmingham (975,000), and Chattanooga (500,000). However, I think the 5,000,000 people in Atlanta alone would support a soccer club that's looking to fill about 20,000 seats a game.

The negatives used against are over exaggerated and don't apply when talking about soccer. People always imply Atlanta doesn't even support the Braves, who've won consistently since 1991. This year, with a struggling team, Atlanta has finished 14th in MLB rankings averaging just above 31,000 fans a game.

Using the Silverbacks as a gauge to whether MLS soccer in Atlanta would be successful doesn't accurately paint a picture. Atlanta is a pro sports and college town. Whose going to go see some obscure soccer team? They hardly even market. With a NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, and countless of successful college programs its hard for a second-rate soccer team to compete.

People will point to Atlanta's lackluster attendance figures for their other pro sports. While I can't deny that, I did point out some of those numbers can be overly exaggerated. Even though, of course that's true for the established pro sports franchises. Atlanta is a transplant town. People here already have established teams in the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA. But how does this apply to the MLS, a league in which is in its infancy and most people in the country, and Atlanta, have not developed some loyalty to? The people here would embrace an MLS team as their own, because they have no ties to teams from their hometown they left 5, 10 years ago.

So that was just my two cents. Soccer is a very popular sport in the south with the youth. The stadium would be filled and the Atlanta team would become the "team of the south". I can't argue against the other locations, they all deserve a team as well, but Atlanta gets an undeserved bad rap. Of course Portland is going to have good USL figures. There's nothing competing with those figures except the Trailblazers and probably some minor league baseball.

And I'm not sure if ESPN has exclusive rights to the MLS, but if a team was to emerge in Atlanta you could probably get Turner Broadcasting to broadcast almost all home games on stations like Turner South, TBS, etc. easily expanding its reach into the Southeast.

Lets go Atlanta!

Larry said...

[adam said]My vote is for Portland for sure, its a town that has a good sports fanbase, they'd be the only sport in town minus I guess the sea dogs, plus like people said it'd give you a natural rivalry with Seattle, and maybe even San Jose. [/quote

Umm... Adam - The SeaDogs are on the other coast.
Nice mascot, though.