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SBI Question of the Day: Which recently-announced expansion candidate would be best for MLS?


With a bevy of teams and potential ownership groups revealing MLS ambitions in recent days, there is no shortage of possible teams, but only so many open spaces, for expansion slots 25-28.

While their future home for 2017 has yet to be decided, the recently re-branded North Carolina FC immediately declared its intent to secure an MLS expansion slot, as well as an NWSL franchise, for the Raleigh-Durham triangle area within 12-18 months. Currently existing in the NASL, North Carolina FC is rumored to be among those teams negotiating an exit to join the USL for the upcoming 2017 season. The ownership group has the ambition, and now a professional look to go along with it.

Joining them is a team that has already made the leap from the NASL to USL, the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Owner Bill Edwards announced on Tuesday his plan to renovate the Rowdies Al Lang Stadium to bring it up to division one standards, and revealed his organization’s discussions with MLS regarding a potential expansion bid. MLS seemed receptive to his approach, stating that the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area is an attractive potential destination and that the league would discuss the possibilities with the team.

Meanwhile, one candidate entered the fray that has just recently completed a massively successful first professional season in USL. FC Cincinnati proved that it could draw attendance over an entire season on part with the big boys in U.S. soccer, averaging a higher attendance than even some MLS teams. The on-field product was to be admired as well, finishing third in the Eastern conference standings before a first-round playoff exit. MLS commissioner Don Garber recently visited the city and team, and was reportedly impressed by what he saw.

The fourth candidate, unlike the other three, is a start-from-scratch bid to bring soccer to a market desperately hungry for a new professional sports team after the departure of their NFL franchise. St. Louis is one of the largest markets not currently served by MLS, but a bid from the ownership group known as SC STL has been gaining momentum and has league support. MLS recently clarified that of two competing bids, SC STL was the only viable candidate in St. Louis moving forward. With a stadium plan in place and with the reported approval of the league, St. Louis may not stay empty for much longer.

With all of this in mind, which recently-announced expansion candidate do you think would be best for MLS? Have your say in Wednesday’s SBI Question of the Day and explain your choice in the comments below.

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  1. Get to 40 teams. More local rivalries and more academies. The biggest detriment to US soccer is pay to play. More academies means more players getting looks and more getting good coaching.

  2. St Louis has tried to start up teams several times and had trouble maintaining momentum. They’ve got history / tradition, but is that enough to carry them forward?

    Tampa has a better track record of success, especially recently in the NASL as a tough competitive side. Can Florida sustain that many teams again? Has the landscape changed that much, post-Mutiny?

    Raleigh / NCFC has a solid track record with high-level minor league sports, but unless the Hurricanes are winning, the NHL doesn’t attract much attention. Will NCFC be able to weather bad seasons? Local talent won’t be a problem – last I saw, the Triangle area had 2nd-most-players-per-capita in MLS of any metro area.

    Cincy has no track record of success, although they’ve got some recent enthusiasm. How long does that last? Do they just turn into another Atlanta with a deep-pocketed owner in a mediocre sports town who writes a huge check but has no idea if it’s sustainable?

  3. Once they get to 28 I think MLS needs to go MLS 2 with two permanent spots for a quasi-promotion with the top team of the two staying and the lower dropping back. Champ of MLS-2 moves up. Pro/Rel ala Europe probably won’t fly.

    Option 2 is to just expand to 40; 4×10. You could fit a 38-game schedule playing division opponents twice, other conference (Pacific/Plains; Midwest/Atlantic, whatever you want to call them) once, and then switch between the opposite divisions in the West/East conferences every other year.

  4. split into 4 divisions:
    Pacific – van, sea, port, sj, lag, lafc + sacramento
    West – rsl, cr, fcd, hou, min, skc + saint louis
    Central – chi, tfc, mtl, clb, atl, orl + cincinnati
    Atlantic – ne, nyc, nyrb, phi, dcu, miami + north carolina

    after 28, leave 4 spots open for teams to be promoted into as d2 is solidified.

      • second division is important too, creating a strong link between ncaa/youth/amateur and the elite pro level is vital to US/Canadian soccer. USL is buzzing right now because every investor is seeing it as a stepping stone to MLS – as soon as that door is shut (no more mls expansion) second division will go back to something like pdl/npsl + mls reserve teams. leaving 4 spots open for a team like tampa or san antonio or detroit or ottawa or anyone in the second division keeps that fire burning in the lower division…

  5. St.Louis was the hotbed of soccer in the US in the 50’s-70’s. The Catholic high schools in St. Louis played soccer in the winter, that avoided the competition for athletes with football, raised the awareness of soccer and provided athletes who actually could play. SLU was a perennial favorite to win the NCAA and still has the most championships in men’s soccer (10) and from 1959 thru 1974 appeared in the final four all but 2 times.
    There is some history there that should payoff in terms of fan interest, even those who remember the glory days of SLU soccer may be a bit long in the tooth.

    • My teeth actually wore down through the years.

      As great as soccer was in St Louis, really is where they are now though, the Browns left many decades ago, and the football team left too. For a reason. Not saying it is a bad choice, just saying it needs to be great now.

    • I’m starting to come around to your train of thought. I still think there’s merit to the product being watered down, but at this point throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. Why not?

    • I agree that they’re all deserving. I’d put them in this order:

      First: St. Louis – Establish more of a presence in middle of the country. St. Louis has a lot of tradition when it comes to soccer, and is a fertile ground for players. Reason against – Do they have any sort of fan base at all?

      Second: Tampa Bay – The ideal/real rival for OCity. That rivalry would match any other in MLS and produce lots of must-see drama. Lots of tradition there, too. Reason against – Is St. Pete really a worthy market?

      Third: Cincy – Give them another couple of seasons in USL to make sure they are for real and not just a fad. Maybe this would spark a fire under Columbus fans, too, and get them more engaged. Reason against – Should Columbus just be relocated instead of having a new expansion club coming into OH?

      Fourth: North Carolina – Raleigh is a serious soccer hot bed. When it’s been well run, the club has been supported well by the fans. Reason against – Does Charlotte make more sense and keep Raleigh as USL?


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