Kicking Around The Expansion Wheel

Kicking Around The Expansion Wheel

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 6, 2007
  • 2 Comments

I honestly didn’t see very much MLS action this weekend since I was on the road until the early evening on Sunday. I did however catch the LA-Toronto game and I heard a very interesting tid-bit from the ever so annoying Rob Stone. Stone called his usual game with the usual crew (including Allen Hopkins in a bright red sweater that made myself and my family chuckle at). But it was something Stone said in the late stages of the game that made me write this article this morning.

A halftime press conference by the commissioner and a later article released by a Toronto newspaper state that the league is expecting to expand to 18 teams by 2012.

Yes, you read that right, 18 teams in the next five years. We all know the league has been stating for the past five years that there would be 16 teams by the 2010 season, but now add two more by the 2012 season.

I really feel mixed about this announcement. I know there are many great markets out there that want a team and that are trying to catch the league’s attention to get a team but is that really where the MLS is going in the next five season?

The league is already saying that there will probably be another Canadian club in the league by then (probably Montreal or Vancouver) to go along with the already announced re-birth of the San Jose Earthquakes. Like I’ve said, there are plenty of other markets and group that want a club in their city ranging from a club in the Pacific Northwest to Vegas and Phoenix, over to St. Louis and Milwaukee, down to Atlanta and Florida, up to Cleveland Philly and lastly again in New York. That in a nut-shell is the cities that are wanting a club or another club in New York’s case.

The only way I can get used to the idea of five more clubs in the next five seasons is if the league relaxes on their international player rules. Right now clubs are only allowed so many foreigners to play unless they have a green card (four senior and three youth internationals I believe per-roster). If the league is expecting to expand this much they must relax on these rules and expand them as well to allow more talent to come over and help out these new clubs.

As it stands right now, there would be no way the league could handle five more club with the current rules in place when it regards foreign players. The US talent pool is good but not good enough to handle that many more clubs.

Secondly, look what it may possibly do to the USL-1. Put a club in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Atlanta or Montreal and you have serious competition with local USL sides. I can already bet if a club is placed in a city like Atlanta, the USL side would most definitely fold. I know it isn’t the league’s plan to take over USL sides or anything but it will do some serious damage to the USL as a whole in the long run.

Lastly, the question that always comes up is on how much the talent pool will be diluted if the league is expanded this much in the next few seasons. Gradual expansion has worked for the league so far in it’s history I believe. And in order to go this route a gradual expansion will have to take place meaning San Jose next season, two clubs in 2010 and then the last two in 2012. I don’t think the league needs to expand club by club over the next few seasons.

Five clubs in five years. San Jose is next and we know the fan base there. Which makes us now wait on the announcement at the end of the season about the next two cities. One will be in the east and one is the west I believe. November is really not that far away.

I think in the coming weeks I will take a look at each city and size up their chances. We know the things that the league looks for in an expansion site. I think it is safe to say that out of the cities listed above that there are four more good cities like a Toronto or a San Jose that could support a club.

Your thoughts on this? IS 18 too many too soon for the MLS? Which markets will be in by then? 

  • Bonji

    I am a firm believer that the American talent pool will continue to expand along with the league. There is plenty of talent sitting on the benches of current MLS clubs and the American development system is constantly expanding and improving. With MLS youth clubs, US Soccer Development, Brad Friedel's school, etc. there will be a lot of talented youngsters entering the league in five years time. Add a DP to each team and better foreign players (non-DP) like Juan Toja, Paulo Wanchope, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Luciano Emilio, Christian Gomez, Pablo Ricchetti, Paul Dalglish, Carlos Marinelli, Abel Xavier, etc…you get my point. MLS is attracting better talent all around and as the league grows it will be able to attract more. <br />
    <br />
    Bring on smart growth in good markets with SSS.

  • I am a firm believer that the American talent pool will continue to expand along with the league. There is plenty of talent sitting on the benches of current MLS clubs and the American development system is constantly expanding and improving. With MLS youth clubs, US Soccer Development, Brad Friedel’s school, etc. there will be a lot of talented youngsters entering the league in five years time. Add a DP to each team and better foreign players (non-DP) like Juan Toja, Paulo Wanchope, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Luciano Emilio, Christian Gomez, Pablo Ricchetti, Paul Dalglish, Carlos Marinelli, Abel Xavier, etc…you get my point. MLS is attracting better talent all around and as the league grows it will be able to attract more.

    Bring on smart growth in good markets with SSS.