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Five cities left as MLS pushes back expansion decision to March

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After months of having January as the target for a decision on expansion in 2011, MLS will now wait until March to make its final decision on which two markets will be given expansion teams in 2011.

The five remaining candidates are Miami, Portland, Vancouver, St. Louis and Ottawa and all except for Ottawa have been visited by MLS officials in preparation for a decision. MLS commissioner Don Garber and president Mark Abbott will travel to Ottawa next week to survey the city's bid.

Now that Montreal and Atlanta are out of the running, it is time to start thinking about which two cities are the most likely to be chosen. Miami is looking like a front-runner with the backing of FC Barcelona and the financial strength of billionaire investor Marcelo Claure. St. Louis was thought to be a favorite but continued questions about the financial strength of the ownership group have suddenly left St. Louis look like anything but a sure bet.

If you have not seen it yet, here is my ESPN.com column on the remaining candidates.

Here is the question for you. Now that we are down to five cities, which of them would get your vote for 2011?

Share your thoughts on the remaining expansion candidates in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. Ottawa has the highest participation rate for soccer in Canada, it has the highest median household income in Canada (will probably be less-affected by the recession than any city in North America), a solid, proven ownership group, and the population of metro Ottawa is close to 1.2 million.

    This bid is much stronger than people in the US believe. The fact that 99% of people in the US are ignorant of anything that goes on outside of their “home-McDonalds-work-Burger King-home” daily commute should be irrelevant to MLS expansion decisions.

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  2. Ottawaaaaaaaaaa! U20 Canada 2007, Ottawa was the only city to sell out every game. Please give us this! we deserve!!!!!!!

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  3. Ottawa please! Ottawa needs an MLS team and would compete very well with other MLS clubs. Ottawa has great soccer talent and if given a chance to show it with this project then good things can happen! No doubt! OTTAWA.

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  4. Ottawa deserves the a team, because we have Mr Melnyk backing the finances we have the space for the facilites in Ottawa and he hosted the under 20 World cup in the summer of 2007 and it was a big sucess so why not.

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  5. It blows my mind how ignorant some of you people are…clearly many of u do not look into the facts or do any homework before making judgment calls/votes. http://www.bringtheworldtoottawa.ca/home.php
    That says it all my friends. Ottawa would be a GREAT choice and decision by the MLS. Owner of the NHL Senators, finances are no question. Soccer specific stadium + 5 surrounding fields w/ at least 2 covered for winter ball. This is not just an MLS team, but a whole academy/franchise being set up, similar to clubs in Europe. I don’t see how Ottawa can’t get 1 of these spots.

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  6. I would have to go with Ottawa. It’s the biggest soccer city in Canada, despite only having a population on under 1 million. Tons of children are beginning the take on soccer in Ottawa as well. Plus, the person who will own the team, Eugene Melnyk, is a millionaire and a sucessful buisnessman. He owns the Ottawa Senators (a team in the National Hockey League), which is doing very well financially. I believe the fan support will be astonishing. Therefore my vote goes to Ottawa

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  7. The league pulled the Montreal bid because even though MLS said 40 millions for entry fee, the Impact offered less. Not the most brilliant move, considering many others were competing for the two spots.

    Oddly enough, plenty of Montreal people would come to Ottawa to see MLS soccer. So when Ottawa gets an MLS team, I expect the stadium to be full…

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  8. Ives, it should be noted that Montreal did not withdraw their bid. According to Montreal Impact president Joey Saputo, “Montreal never at any point withdrew its bid from the process. We were rather informed that our bid was not retained.”

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  9. Ottawa has the biggest soccer fan base in all of Canada. Ottawa sold out the world cup under 20. The plans and financial strengths should definitely consider Ottawa the best candidate for an MLS franchise.

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  10. Ignore or mock Ottawa all you want… They have the best bid and would be a lock for a rivalry with Toronto FC that would make all other rivalries in MLS pale in comparison.

    They have the best bid, a solid ownership group, no summer competition from other sports and an already identifiable ennemy (Toronto FC). Miami, Vancouver and Portland are already in the USL and St.Louis has money issues…

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  11. My concern with Miami is what happens if Barca loses interest when its new leadership takes over in 2010? Is Claure alone enough? Perhaps, but I don’t know.

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  12. Hey Tim F – Miami won’t be the most hated team – no one cares about Miami – not even Miamians care about Miami. Miami wants to think people hate them because it would at least mean they are noticed. But as it stands, they have the crappiest bid of the bunch with the glitz that MLS might just fall for.

    Here’s to Portland and St. Louis joining the league.

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  13. PORTLAND!!!!! The timbers army is incredible and PGE park will be a fantastic mls stadium with the expanded seating and other renovations.

    If Mayor Sam Adams ruins things I will be extremely disappointed.

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  14. Philly now has the money to build the stadium (Chester sold the bonds a week or so ago). There’s virtually no chance of them not making it now in that new stadium (though I wouldn’t be shocked if additional investors were brought on).

    Portland’s stadium needs significant work to be a long-term solution. I don’t think MLS is going there without being assured that work will be funded.

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  15. My vote goes for St. Louis and Portland. Vancouver and Miami next time around. Actually, I say Miami never. Tell Barca to put their big bucks into NY 2 or something to that effect.

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  16. LD, that was funny. Ottawa might have the best proposal, but even that doesn’t give them a fighting chance. If Ottawa, were to get a team, the first Ottawa-TFC game would probably have 6,000+ TFC fans.

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  17. I think part of the problem for MLS decision makers is that Vancouver and Ottawa have emerged as the two strongest bids. They hadn’t figured on adding two Canadian teams, and now they are crunching the numbers to decide whether the two best bids are also the best for the league’s business plan.

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  18. Cam,

    When Shaq was there they did have great attendance, so your point is that if a miami team doesn’t have a marquee name that brings them championships nobody will show up? What did the heat draw when they were a mediocre team? Nobody… Any city is a great sports city when there winning championships. Good sports towns have fans at games no matter what (ex Cleveland Browns, Chicago Cubs).

    Also, 7th best TV audience? when you have the 7th best t.v audience and one of the worst attendance numbers for a young exciting team like the marlins that’s won 2 world series in ten years, there’s a problem. Let’s also not act like Joe Robbie is in the sticks somewhere, its right between ft. lauderdale and Miami, which makes it accessable to both populations. 40 Miles? maybe if you live in Homestead its 40 Miles. It’s ten minutes from my home in plantation, which is in the middle of ft. lauderdale. People can access joe robbie if they want, the fact that they don’t when their team isn’t winning championships every year is disappointing.

    w/ all that said, I really hope your right and i’m wrong, b/c it would be really cool to see a south florida team that is supported through the thick and thin. I’m done talking about this, i’m thoroughly depressed. Go Dolphins

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  19. St. Louis SHOULD be the front runner. They already have a soccer specific stadium approved. They have financial backers, including Albert Pujols (Not billionaire but high profile). Their owner, Jeff Cooper (again not a billionaire) is still very wealthy and will work his butt off to make MLS succeed in StL. He has been putting this bid together for years! He has even convinced two of the better club teams in the midwest, and best in St. Louis (Busch and Scott Gallagher) to combine into one club, St. Louis SC, in order to be more high profile in youth tournaments. Busch and or SG would send teams to Nationals every few years on their own, combine them and it’s more likely to happen year in year out.

    Also, soccer started in St. Louis. 1950 World Cup ring a bell? What was it, 6 starters were from StL? Also the Billikens have the most NCAA soccer championships of any college, obviously they haven’t been to the Final Four since McBride was there, but they helped to lay the ground works. Also, Souther Illinoise Univ at Edwardsville (just outside StL) has a national championship (d1 and d2, back in d1 this year) as well as University of Missouri St. Louis.

    The St. Louis Steamers of the MISL back in the 80’s sold out the arena for every game. Over 20,000 fans a game for indoor soccer! They were more popular than the Blues at the time. That is what this city can do.

    St. Louis has the most soccer-conscious fans in the country (aside from diversely ethnic areas). No other city can provide the history or pure soccer enthusiasm that St. Louis does… and their owner will NOT let the MLS fail in this city.

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  20. Portland is easily the best choice to add into MLS. The three largest cities in the Pacific Northwest…Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. are all soccer hotbeds with a long soccer history and rivalries.

    Portland’s PGE park is NOT a baseball stadium. It is an all purpose stadium that needs a bit of work to make it soccer specific and turn it into a jewel of an urban soccer stadium. The fan base is there and will explode in growth with an MLS team.

    The number of professional sports teams is not a measure of a good sports town. The Blazers are 3rd in the NBA in attendance so far this year.

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  21. Is the rumor that Philly might not be ready for 2010 still floating around? That would basically lock Miami for a spot.

    I think MLS would delay for St Louis before Portland, it’s applied in the past, they even had the draft there.

    i get the fan support thing from Portland but seriously, playing out of a baseball park? Until they get the go ahead for public funding for a new stadium (which isnt the most popular idea right now) it doesn’t make sense. Add on the fact Vancouver has a privately funded stadium renewal about to be initiated plus plans for a waterfront stadium, suddenly the northwest team that makes more sense is vancouver. Except it’s Canadian, which i think is hurting it the most.

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  22. jpc… you’re wrong about the marlins. the fish have the 7th largest tv audience in baseball. there actually are a ton of marlin fans, we just dont go to the games as often as in other cities, mainly because of the rain and location of the stadium. there is a reason why mlb never pulled the plug on the marlins. all of that will change once the fish finally get their new stadium with a retractable roof in a decent location.

    funny that you didnt mention the heat, either. ever try to get tickets to a heat game when shaq was here?

    here are the facts: south florida is almost twice as large of a media market than portland or st. louis. over 50% of dade county residents are foreign born. gol tv is based down here. the ft. lauderdale strikers were one of the most successful teams in the nasl. mls unfairly pulled the plug on our first team, despite the fact that attendance was up significantly, and despite the fact that the team was starting to succeed even though it was based 40 miles away from its fans. and, probably most importantly, the best team in the world right now wants a controlling interest in the team. miami is a damn good sports town.

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  23. To Kevin:

    Barca isn’t providing any financial help to the Miami bid. They are only offering a hand with management. Barca has gone on record as saying that they have zero financial risk involved.

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  24. They are pushing the date to give Portland a chance to get their stuff in order, not St Louis.

    Anyway, go Miami! We will be the most hated team in the league and we wont care!

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  25. I hope MLS knows bringing Miami in under the banner of Barca makes their league akin to AAA baseball. Americans don’t take well to 2nd rate anything. Nor do American advertisers.

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  26. To add to my last post, I really think the second best option is either St. Louis or Vancouver.

    I’m just amazed that MLS is going to choose to get kicked in the balls…again.

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  27. I can’t believe PDX isn’t a shoo-in. They consistently get more fans out for their A-League games than Miami did in MLS. I get that financial backing is a big part of the decision, but I say we give a team to the best-supported non-MLS team…not the city that already had its change…not the city that has never supported and sports team that well…

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  28. Any combination of Portland, St. Louis, and Vancouver will be fine…just keep Barca and their elitist attitude along with their poseur eurosnob fans out of our league!!

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  29. Travis,
    – Dolphins + Jets = Rivalry
    – NY + Miami = a bunch of transplants in south florida rooting for NY while true South Floridians call WQAM and complain about the Dolphins and Canes (SEE, Marlins vs. Yankees; Marlins vs. Mets)

    Listen, I’m from Ft. Lauderdale and there is nothing i would love more than for S. Florida to be a great sports town… But it ain’t gonna happen, the weather is too nice and there’s too much other stuff to do for people to be passionate about sports other than Football (which is only a 16 day commitment)

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  30. No offense furball, but if you think that stadium in Portland is an acceptable venue for MLS, you are delusional. Part of the process of Portland getting a team is to get the needed funds to fix it up to be at an acceptable standard. As it is now, it’s certainly NOT acceptable. I personally would like to see Portland and St. Louis get in, so I’m not “hating” on Portland. Just stating fact.

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  31. I don’t understand why the Vancouver bid isn’t receiving more fanfare. through and through I think it’s the strongest bid. If it was an American city I think it would be pretty much a lock.

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  32. Portland and Vancouver need to join MLS. Great foundations (fans, team, history, etc.) and having them move to MLS will free USL to focus on the remaining, predominantly East Coast teams in USL-1.

    That said, I’d like to see St. Louis get in eventually after them

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  33. that might follow because they support their home league*.

    and for what its worth, I’m on the opposite side of the country from Portland. I just think it would be a big mistake and a even bigger missed opportunity to ignore the team.

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  34. absolutely, the Rose garden is one of the best atmospheres in sports, and their minor league soccer team averaged over 6,000 fans per game. The Florida Marlins are lucky to have 6,000 fans many nights… Miami is a disgraceful sports town… It is also easy to overestimate the passion for soccer in Miami, there are many south americans, but most of miami are Cuban, Caribbean and central Americans. These are not soccer people, these people come from cultures where baseball is king, which the MLS unfortunately may find out

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  35. Portland!

    If MLS is wanting to re-create what Toronto and Seattle have done, why would they ignore a club that has so much support in the USL, along with their soccer history?? Reward the cities of North America that passionately support the game regardless of some euro club that has more money than they know what to do with to come market their team in our league.

    MLS should be highlighting the cities that have been known for the game; not cities that are well populated with immigrants that might follow their home leagues.

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  36. I’d like to see St Louis and Miami. I do not want the USL1 markets of Portland and Vancouver taken over by MLS because I think it would effectively kill off the USL. MLS needs a decent USL1 where players can get minutes on loan since they’ve scrapped the MLS reserve league. If any USL market has to go I’d prefer it be Miami with the Barcelona bid.

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  37. portland is a better sports town than miami? really? portland has the blazers, thats it. not to mention less than half the population.

    that being said, im sure miami is in, the question (and reason for the delay) is concerning who goes in with them. i think garber is giving st. louis more time to get their money together, and portland more time to see if they can solidify support for a new stadium. if neither happen, i predict that vancouver will be chosen by default to enter the league with miami. if both happen, well, sorry portland, but id give the edge to st. louis because its a bigger market and mls just expanded to the pac nw.

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  38. jpc – here’s 1. and if your looking for a rivalry look no further than your disdain for the bid. NY – MIA = rivalry.

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  39. I would really like to know how many of the people who are voting for Miami are from south florida, or are aware at how terrible of a sports market south florida is? The fact that Barcelona is involved means nothing. How many fans go to Chivas USA games? not many… Portland and St. Louis are terrific sports towns, and are also soccer hotbeds in this country. The timbers are a historical team w/ a large fanbase, who already have a rabid rivalry w/ the sounders in place… stadiums will come… MLS needs to be patient and not get sucked in by the name Barcelona

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  40. i’d prolly go with miami, due to barcelona financial help. We are in a recession, so if a team is already in doubts about its financial strength before they are a team worries me. give the other teams a year to see if they can get some more investors.

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