America’s top professional soccer league is nearing the close of its 14th full season as the battle for playoff positioning reaches a never-before-seen intensity. Fueled by high-priced acquisitions and backed by a league leadership group that has made no bones about pushing the sport to new heights, the question of expansion has rested on the minds of the game’s ardent followers for several years. The 2011 Major League Soccer season will see the Portland Timbers, and Vancouver Whitecaps begin league play followed by the Montreal franchise in 2012.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has hinted at a next round of expansion taking place with several cities already in the running. There is no doubt that controversy and heartbreak will follow the rumor and selection process that lay ahead.
Here is a look at a few of the cities that the powers that be should consider in determining the next entrants into the league.
Yes, New York. While the seemingly well-known current New York team with the prominent Austrian energy-drink sponsorship has made headlines with stadium construction and big-ticket player signings, the buzz surrounding a second New York franchise potentially entering the league has gained steam as the erstwhile ‘New York Cosmos’ franchise has been tapped for resurrection. Whether a second big apple team takes the form of the NASL flagship or not, the entry of second franchise in New York is no doubt good for MLS, and the current New York franchise
The ‘home’ of American soccer has recently received a second-tier franchise in the form of AC St Louis. A new Major League Soccer entry in the Gateway City would share a natural rivalry with the recently resurgent Kansas City Wizards. Financing issues have held up what would surely be a swift inclusion into any expansion selection to date. An unfortunate occurrence for a city with a verifiably loyal and apparently soccer-mad fan base.
Yes. Detroit. The Motor City is a stalwart American sports town with a rich tradition of support and loyalty to its professional sports outfits. The possibility of a natural rivalry with the Toronto franchise would create an atmosphere undeniably unique when compared to any currently available with the league’s present make-up. A hockey town with strong NFL, MLB, and NBA tradition, the presence of an MLS franchise would signal a commitment to building a strong well represented league to the non-traditional soccer fan.
No doubt a controversial suggestion for expansion, the southern city would serve as a ‘gateway’ franchise for MLS’ return to the South. The close proximity to the state of Ohio gives any would be franchise a natural rival in the form of original franchise Columbus. The continued presence of the NHL in the city can realistically be seen as a step towards quieting the grumbling over southerly expansion prospects.
What!? Yes the US possession has tremendous potential in growing the MLS brand in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Logistically similar to travel to the Northwest of the country, the island destination has seen a steady rise in soccer interest with the recent Champion’s League success of the second-tier Puerto Rico Islanders. A recently built full-capacity stadium is currently in use, along with known data regarding soccer acceptance on the island. Expansion to Puerto Rico is sure to be a solid move for both MLS and soccer in the region.
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