The hot topic of expansion in MLS is one that is never too far away from the media. In Tuesday’s State of the League address, commissioner Don Garber once again approached this idea; it was the very first time that the expansion teams had finally been laid out. While the long-expected announcement of Orlando City’s addition has been and gone, Garber also revealed that progress is being made in Miami, fronted by David Beckham, as well as Atlanta.
Orlando City’s addition as 21st MLS team represents a big milestone for the league. Not only is MLS returning to an area that was once seen as a failure, but it is also the first truly southern MLS team. It became more and more apparent that the league was ignoring southeastern US, but with Orlando finally joining, more of nation now has a connection to an MLS team.
Orlando City have certainly had a season to remember, once again dominating the USL Pro with Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer leading the way. The club also successfully lifted the USL Pro Championship, and fans will be hoping such success leads to good integration within MLS.
It wasn’t the easiest of moves for Orlando. While the team has had to deal with the public’s reservations, it also had a tough time convincing local authority. Orlando applied for a sales-tax rebate on the stadium and were rejected for this sum of money. While this was seen as a setback, Orlando later successfully got the help they required for the funding of their expected $84 million stadium.
Orlando are now set to join MLS in 2015, alongside previous announcements New York City Football Club. While Orlando lacked the star-studded stories in the ilk of NYCFC, Miami certainly offers just as much, if not more. While Orlando may be fixated upon Kaka to bring the initial fame, Miami’s money and star leadership will provide plenty of attention for themselves and MLS.
David Beckham is fronting the MLS bid, exercising a right within his contract from his days as player at LA Galaxy. If that wasn’t enough, LeBron James also wishes to be involved as he gets more into enjoying the sport. Details are thin on the ground, but billionaire businessman Marcelo Claure may just be the one to make it happen. Claure recently stated that PortMiami may well host the potential 25,000 stadium, telling the Herald:
“We are looking at a lot of locations and working closely with Dade County officials analyzing all of them. The port is only one of them.”
A story that has often flown under the radar is that of Atlanta. Don Garber, the league commissioner, admitted dialogue with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on downsizing technology in conjunction with the 65,000-seat NFL stadium being constructed ahead of the 2017 NFL season. Garber says he is encouraged by the talks, and will look to see if the situation will work for Atlanta.
Atlanta has made its intentions for MLS clear, with the plans for their $1 billion stadium also apparently including an MLS office. While there seems to be a lot going on in the near future for MLS, it did not stop the league from looking further ahead. During the address, Garber showed a graphic demonstrating locations he thought MLS should consider. These locations included San Antonio, Austin, St Louis, and Minneapolis.
San Antonio Scorpions is an appealing source of possible MLS expansion. With high attendance and their own stadium, the newly formed team look to be a viable option. Owner Gordon Hartman has even admitted to communication with the league. St Louis’ recent success at hosting big European teams and the interest they garnered is clearly the motivating factor behind a possible MLS expansion there. Don Garber recently said he wanted 24 teams by 2020. At the rate MLS is expanding and as the rumors, news, and debates increase, Garber will have his wish.
Written by Tom Errington