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.