- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On March 16, 2009
- 8 Comments
- 2011 Expansion, Atlanta Expansion, Geoff Reid, Miami Expansion, MLS Expansion, Montreal Expansion, Ottawa Expansion, Portland Expansion, St. Louis Expansion, Vancouver Expansion
Editor’s note: This is the second column but Geoff Reid. As mentioned before Geoff will be writing on WVH from time to time. Today he tackles the fun that has been the 2011 expansion race.
With the 2009 MLS season about to kick off this week and everything thatís happened the week gone by, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the future regarding our league.
Last week we saw drama from the Pacific northwest to the Gateway City. The fact that the vote in Portland on Wednesday would not only dictate how far their own bid would go, it would also influence the Ottawa bid and especially the St. Louis bid. However, even before all this 11th hour drama began, what looks like the one certain lock has been the quiet, yet steady bid the whole time since all original bids were announced back in the fall.
At first we all thought Montreal would be in instantly including yours truly. Montreal already have a state of the art stadium that can easily expanded to meet the needs of MLS. The Impact already have a rivalry with Toronto FC and it would be enhanced in league play. Of course not forgetting fan support. It looked like potential ownership had deep enough pockets but maybe not deep enough as we thought.
Arthur Blank and his Atlanta bid dropping out was not a complete surprise as he has apparently lost some money in this downturn and it was always an underdog at best. Atlanta should be kept in mind for the future though, but at the moment other cities are better fits currently then them.
Then the biggest surprise of them all thus far, was Miami dropping out of the race. Not only having a billionaire potential owner from Bolivia, but with the help of arguably the biggest club side in the world joining the bid was something MLS simply could not ignore not only because of what the name FC Barcelona stands for globally, but because the club already have a marketing partnership with SUM for the next five years.
I for one was never a fan of the Miami bid for a number of reasons and the only reason why Claure and company lasted as long as they did was because of the Spanish giants involvement. In the future MLS should try the Miami market again depending on the economic climate and measuring it up with other bids that may come into play. Currently there are just more deserving cities right now.
So with two near enough certainties dropping out early the field, it then became an open race for the most part.
Vancouver has been the one bid that nobody heard a peep from and at the moment, that is good news. Everything has seemed to fall in place in BC: deep pockets, stadium deal done and fan support. Of course stranger things have happened such as two early favorites dropping out so donít count them in until itís officially announced, but it does look an almost certainty.
If Vancouver is in, that leaves a closer race for the last spot. Portland got what they needed Wednesday, however, they were not counting on Anheuser-Busch joining Albert Pujols and Jeff Cooper the same day. Who would have thought competition for expansion franchises in MLS would get this competitive five years ago?
It doesnít take a Ivy league graduate to figure out that Portland would be an excellent fit for MLS. They have the owner with deep pockets, extremely strong fan support with an instant local rivalry with the Sounders and Whitecaps (if Vancouver gets in) and now have officially a stadium deal in place. Although it seems that $15m must come up from somewhere which looks like the final hurdle that needs to be cleared.
St. Louis must be thinking what else have we got to do to impress Don Garber after losing the 2010 expansion race to Philadelphia and possibly the 2011 race. The question that remains is not so much a potential ownership group with deep pockets now because of the events that took place last week, the question is are they too late? One wonders why Jeff Cooper could not get Anheuser-Busch on board much earlier. However, it certainly gives MLS much to think about by extending the decision to March 31st.
The other Canadian bid in the capital did raise a number of eyebrows when the bids were announced. Classed as an underdog just as Atlanta was is a credit to the Ottawa bid that they have lasted this long. However, just as the Atlanta and Miami bids before them, they should be considered for future expansion should the league choose to expand further. Right now, there are other bids that just fit better currently plus the stadium deal hasnít been officially put in place yet.
Jeff Cooper said recently in a interview with Gol TV he thinks all original seven bids were good enough and in an ideal environment MLS would like all seven bids to join the league. Itís hard to disagree with that statement. Unfortunately, putting aside all the paperwork and obstacles that need to be cleared, the truth is the talent pool is not big enough to accommodate seven new clubs all at once in North America. Include the current salary cap in the equation then it would be more difficult to bring in more foreign players. However, with roster size changes, number of foreign players per team, the cap will increase and therefore teams will have a little bit more room to be flexible in bringing in new talent. Should MLS continue to expand by another two teams in 2012 or 2013, the choices should be obvious ones.
MLS should do whatever it takes to get the Montreal Impact in the league simply because it makes so much sense in every way and there is too much potential there to ignore. The other should go to either Portland or St. Louis whichever is the one that loses in the current race.
At the moment Portland is favorite and all signs point to them winning, but just as Miami and Montreal showed us nothing is guaranteed.