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Philadelphia to be awarded 16th MLS franchise

The wait is finally over Philadelphia, Major League Soccer is coming to your city.

MLS has chosen Philadelphia to become the league’s 16th franchise, sources told SBI on Wednesday night. The announcement is set for next Thursday.

Philadelphia beat out St. Louis for the right to join the league, helped in no small part by the state of Pennsylvania’s decision to approve $47 million in state funding for a proposed $115 million stadium in Chester, Pa.

The Philadelphia team is slated to begin play in 2010.

So why Philadelphia instead of St. Louis? The St. Louis expansion drive slowed in recent months as efforts to attract big-money investors proved difficult while Philly’s push for public stadium funding provided the final boost for the efforts.

Don’t fret St. Louis, there is always being No. 17. The city’s chances for eventually joining MLS look good and a city with as much soccer history and love for the sport as St. Louis will surely make its way into the league sooner rather than later.

As most SBI readers know, I have long considered Philadelphia as the ideal candidate for expansion. Not only because of the area’s soccer history, but also for the rivalries that will be instantly created with D.C. United and the Red Bulls. The fact that fans of two established MLS teams will be able to drive two hours to an opposing team’s stadium is invaluable for cultivating the sort of fan connection that will help MLS grow.

What do you think of this decision? Did you like Philly as a candidate? Are you upset St. Louis lost out? Was there another city you had in mind? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Congrats to Philly !! This league is only getting better and stronger. But no other club can or will match the passion and insanity that are the Toronto FC Supporters. Bring it on Philly !!

  2. “Sons of Ben recently just had member number 1,400 sign up.”

    Look, the guys who organized the SOBs have done a great job, showing how smart they are by identifying and building on what other supporters clubs have done well.

    But the above figure doesn’t mean anything. There aren’t dues, and “signing up” for the SOBs just involves signing a petition and being on a mailing list. There’s nothing real about that number– some of those people will be standing and singing with the SOBs, and others are showing their support for Philadelphia MLS but will have season tickets in regular sections.

    I’m sure as Philadelphia MLS approaches its “launch,” the SOBs will continue to build on the sense of anticipation, and starting up in a great new stadium and being well organized, they’ll attract a great following come 2010. But I’m dreading the next two years, as Philadelphia fans claim that signatories to their petition/mailing list, who have not made a commitment to anything, demonstrates how much better the SOBs are in comparison to active groups who have to put their money where their mouths are.

    So be honest: the SOB’s count of “members” doesn’t mean anything until there are dues and ticket deposits. Let’s not hear about it anymore.

  3. Philadelphia becoming the next MLS team is great news. Philly is right in the middle of DC and New York, two very established MLS teams. But, there will be NO rivalry unless Philly can compete. DC has shown that they are a contender for the cup every year, and New York has some of the best players in MLS. If Philly can keep up with them I think an exciting, bitter rivalry will be created (i.e. DC United & Chicago Fire). Also, the fans need to make it out to the games. In entertainment, the fans dictate success. Toronto is a great example. They had continuous home sell-outs creating a European atmosphere which draws interest. I’m rooting for soccer in the US to become huge.

  4. Philly . . . worst fans in the country. Hopefully the new team will attract people who won’t applaud when players suffer career-threatening injuries during games.

  5. Dan, I agree with you. Though I do not think it would kill it, I agree with what Hincha Tim said and his list many market that could handle. Also then it will silence all the cities that want a mls team by allowing them teams and competing for 20 spots just like in England. to finish off, mainstream America didn’t know what soccer was 25 years ago, so I think promotion/relegation has to work to take advantage of all the potential markets between the USL and MLS.

  6. In 25 years soccer here will either have gone to promotion/demotion system or a rival league will have been formed.

    Soccer will continue to grow around the country and be in its third generation of fans by then (don’t forget soccer really has been around in the U.S. for about 20 years). Hispanic population in almost every part of the U.S. will continue to rise. The NFL, NBA, MLB, and Hockey really didn’t come into their own until they had been around for 30 years.

    If the MLS expands to 20 teams, lets say for argument’s sake that the teams would be the present ones plus Miami, St. Louis, a second team in NY and Vancouver (not who I would pick, but who I think will be picked).

    In 25 years the following areas will have more than enough support to be successful and large TV markets:

    Riverside, CA
    San Diego
    San Antonio
    Las Vegas
    San Francisco

    If there aren’t teams there, there will be investors who see an opportunity to make money, and form a league. The other four big leagues have largely countered rival leagues by expanding into enough of the possible markets that there aren’t enough markets left for a rival league to establish a foothold. This won’t happen if the league is held at 20 teams.

    So there are three choices:

    1)Expand beyond 20 teams, using a conference and/or unbalanced schedule format.
    2) Expand by having divisions by Demotion/Promotion. In 30 years the initial investment of $30million will not be an issue, a team’s worth will be established by the market that they are in.
    3) Fight it out with a rival league.

    I think the MLS would prefer 1 or 2 to 3.

  7. I agree its great to see philly get a team
    but i also think MLS needs to cool off the expansion. Everyone seems to forget just a few years ago MLS was retracting its teams in the south due to poor attendance and money. Also For everyone who says Miami needs a team did you forget that they HAD a team. And that team had the worst attendance in the league, Miami sports fans are terrible, not one of their teams has good attendance in any sport.

    And as far as promotion and relegation goes that would kill MLS. It’s a completely foreign concept that most Americans wouldn’t go for. Once MLS gets too twenty they should stop, USL can build up the lowers leagues and i’d love that, promote and relegate all it wants but that would kill the MLS.

  8. @Posted by: Johnny | February 21, 2008 at 09:13 AM

    It would be pretty hard to find anything that could possibly hurt RBNY’s attendance more short of them renaming themselves the ‘I [[hear]] killing babies FC’

    St Louis and Milwaukee would be another nice 3 way rivalry with Chicago that already exists in the other sports here. Seems to make sense to me. Sure it excludes the SE but sports in general (outside of college) haven’t had the greatest track record down there.

  9. Nah, you have to stick with franchises. Lotta people plunking down good money to be in MLS… gonna tell them now they’re losing 99% of that revenue by going down?

    Absolutely not.

    Plus, I don’t believe MLS could find 32-36 viable cities (excluding the odd two-team market) to do two divisions with!

    My guess is MLS goes to 18 or 20 teams and stops there for a while, maybe eventually adding a couple more to do NFL style conferences.

  10. I congratulate Philly on getting a team. I don’t think St.Louis should get an expansion team, they should take KC’s team, since no one cares about that team anyway. Two teams in the state of Missouri wont work. Other areas deserve it more than them. I think Montreal, Miami, and Vancouver deserve a team more. Since MLS doesn’t want to go above 20 teams, the only realistic solution is a relegation/promotion system to USL-1. I also think greater cooperation between USL and MLS well help soccer succeed on the professional level and create a soccer map like England. I don’t like this franchise system, you never get punished for playing bad.

  11. Good comments. Obviously the MLS wanted Philly to get in first considering it’s around the 5th largest market in the U.S. (depending how that’s counted). STL is a good market and centrally located and has a good soccer base. However the city has been decimated by population and industrial loss and the region has hardly seen Sun-Belt type growth though like KC it seems to be finally recovering a bit. It seems natural that STL should receive the next franchise in 2012 if it can maintain and move forward its momentum towards a stadium.

    To the insinuation that KC should move because of its paltry fan base I understand but still disagree. Part of the fan problem there probably has to do with the continental climate which makes it insanely hot and humid in summer alternating with freezing weather well into the transitional seasons along with all the frequent thunderstorms and tornadoes. Unfortunately, Kansas City (and I lived there for a couple years) seems to have 2 to maybe 3 months of decent weather year round.

    Seriously, though, if the MLS can hang tough and grow its league OUTSIDE of just its traditional soccer hotbeds (i.e. large coastal cities with large Latino and other immigrant populations) I believe it benefits the DEPTH of the league’s support in the U.S. How better to do that then making the game relevant in NFL/NASCAR country? That will in turn give the league a better chance of survival in the long run. Additionally, KC ties the league together a little bit more geographically between teams that are otherwise even more spread out from each other (one of the biggest challenges for soccer in the U.S.). KC has a small but loyal fanbase that seems to be growing slowly but steadily. The Wizards’ success on the field has helped and if/once the stadium is completed it should help stabilize brand-name and local support (cavernous Arrowhead was one of the WORST places in MLS to see a game). I like how the Wizards new motto, “The World’s Game, Kansas City’s Team” identifies the team as one that’s local but part of something bigger.

  12. St. Louis would be a waste of time. Spare me the violin audio on history and tradition. Soccer in America has no tradition, and is largely irrelevent for media partners.

    The only way MLS will ever become a major league is to increase its compensation to players… the only way that happens is if media revenue increases.

    The MLS needs to be in the largest DMAs if it wants to increase media revenue. Atlanta, Detroit, Tampa, Phoenix and Minneapolis should be the only considerations. Anything lower than a top 15 DMA is just a waste of time.

    For example, having Toronto in the league is a complete waste for television partners, and no one is clamoring for KC, Columbus or Real Salt Lake to be on their broadcast schedule.

    Go big, or expect the media payout per team to remain at around $2MM/yr (its not a coincidence that is the salary cap).

  13. This is great news for Philly, but as a supported of the STL team (being from that region and with STL representing an MLS game I could actually get to) I feel bit cheated. The STL group had TIF funding, had a group, and had a stadium plan…they just didn’t have Philly. And, I think it is a bit disingenious for the MLS to play other cities off the immediacy of the STL bid in order to get them in the game. If NY2 or Florida hits MLS before STL, we’ll know for sure what’s going on. For now, I’m dissapointed, but hopeful that we’re next…

  14. For “Let’s Go Oregon”, St. Louis is about 4 hours by car from Kansas City, or, about an hour longer than the distance between Seattle and Portland.

  15. Great to see it happening! Philly was the best choice right now for a franchise and they will create a rivarly with all other mid-Atlantic teams. Soccer history and sports fanaticism is a natural in that city. Now I’m curious to see what they will call the team, although I’m sure that announcement won’t be made until 2009. And it’s true about Philly futility. Though I could see this franchise winning hardware long before the Eagles/Sixers/Flyer/Phillies

  16. I still feel Portland is deserving of a team. It’s a shame it hasn’t worked out…they’ve already got better support than a good portion of MLS

  17. This is great. I’ve always found it hard to support a team in MLS when they weren’t in my area. DC is like cheering for Redskins. It never really felt right. Philly fans tend to be die hards, so I’m sorry that Philly will now have a 5th major sports franchise to disapoint fans every year. We Philly fans are so used to futility, its inevitable they will suck. I just hope Comcast sports covers this team like they cover the other Philly sports. If the Philadelphia Soul (arena league football) gets more press, I’ll be seriously irritated.

  18. Congratulations to Philly, it will be good to have an even number of teams in the league.

    I am hoping that at this point, the league stops the expansion for a few years to allow the level of talent to grow to evenly fill out these rosters with good competitive teams. Ultimately, there may be a place for 1-2 more teams (Portland, San Diego, or St. Louis), but expansion needs to be gradual.

  19. As a Metro/Bulls fan since day 1 in 1996, I couldn’t be happier to see Philly land a team in MLS. My girlfriend lives in Philadelphia, so I imagine I’ll be taking her to games in Chester (as well as the Meadowlands and, hopefully soon, Harrison). Rivalries are what makes sports so unnervingly exciting – the more in MLS, the better. I’ll be cheering for FC Philadelphia (except when they play the Red Bulls, of course) – and especially when they play (and hopefully demolish) the Scum. Congrats!

  20. Here is how it should be after Philly (in terms of expansion teams):
    Portland, Montreal, St. Louis, Miami, NOT NEW YORK!!!
    Have any of you SEEN those Timbers’ fans? And that’s just for USL!!
    Montreal has an insane amount of French people. The French like soccer. Look at the success in Toronto. I don’t know, maybe it will be similar.
    St. Louis is too close to KC for me. And KC is going to play 3 years in a minor-league baseball park, seating about 10k. Yeaaaahh.
    Miami- ehh. Maybe, if they try to attract the right crowd (the Latino population).

  21. I was hoping Philly would get the next franchise. We could have a 3-way rivalry with United, the Bulls, and the Untitled Philly Project.

    Congrats everyone from the Philly area! I hope you beat the Red Bulls a lot, but play like crap against United!


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