Beyond 20 Clubs

Beyond 20 Clubs

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 2, 2010
  • MLS Expansion

In case you missed it last week, All Things Footy (excellent site BTW) had a great series looking at numerous cites that could be targets for Major League Soccer’s 20th club. Kevin McCauley got site readers from all over to contribute why or why not their city should be in the running.

The discussion were pretty interesting. I’ve done posts like this in the past in most of these cities but this series went a step further which makes it really worth checking into.

Most of you know I’ve been fairly opinionated about the MLS expansion movement and where the league should go next and down the road. So seeing stuff like this easily sparked my interest and gave me fuel to talk a bit more on it.

I’ll start by continuing a bit off my earlier post about New York and the Cosmos. Until the league openly comes out and admits that a second club in New York won’t be the 20th team we probably should go ahead and assume that New York will be the 20th team for now. The ATF look at New York can be found here, it lists the usual pros and cons for the Big Apple.

From here out I’m pretty much going to be talking after club number 20. More than likely we won’t see any of these cities for at least five years, maybe more as I think once the league gets to 20 club they’ll stop their expansion movement for a few years unless some how the money presents itself in a few cities to kick it back up again.

The South(east)

We know the league needs and wants to be in the South, particularly in the southeast. There you have a few choices in Charlotte, Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, and Miami (the series also looks at the NC Triangle of Durham-Raleigh-Greensboro).

I’ll be honest here as I’ve always been about clubs in the south. You can’t just have one to make it successful. You must have at least two to three clubs in the south to really make it work for all involved. I say this because adding the southeast adds more travel for the clubs plus finding the right mix of cities will always be difficult to do for the league. The travel thing alone could be one of the biggest reason why the league won’t go to Miami or Atlanta for team number 20 (closest clubs to Miami will be Houston and D.C., over a 1000 miles away).

The best choices in my mind right now are Charlotte and Tampa. I love the idea of a team in Charlotte one day down the road. I’ve spent plenty of time in that city so I’d like to believe I know it could work having family there and having played some soccer there in my  youth. People love the game there and if the right situation presents itself for the league there it really could work well. But again this one and Tampa are still a few years away from actually making sense.

The South(west)

One thing I was surprised with in this series was the lack of a discussion on San Antonio. I don’t know if the local supporter’s group there couldn’t be reached or what but believe me that is a city worth looking at down the road too. But is Phoenix? Or San Diego (yes I know its technically Californian and not Southwest but we’ll pretend for now).

Too many challenges for both if you ask me. I’ve always been intrigued by San Diego for the league. Some have suggested on multiple times to move Chivas USA down there but I’d rather see them get their own club rather than get a relocated one. Phoenix, like Las Vegas would only work if the stadium had a roof over the entire field, not just the stands.

Maybe in 15 years or so for those two.

The rest

Outside the two southern regions of the country the series looked at Rochester, Detroit and Ottawa.

No, no and no. With all due respect to each city of course. We already have a Columbus so Rochester makes little sense. Three teams in Canada probably give little reason to go to Ottawa now. And do we really want a team in the Silverdome? I don’t think so.

I still wouldn’t leave off cities like St. Louis, Nashville, or Minneapolis.


  • Aug 2 2010
I believe the race for the 20th team is between Atlanta and New York. Garber wants a team down south and the Cosmos are making the most effort. If Arthur Blanke gets involved with
Atlanta, it's a dealbreaker for New York.
  • Aug 2 2010
We are doing San Antonio later this week - a member of their main supporters organization is writing it for us.
Westeros United FC
  • Aug 3 2010
you can also add

Las Vegas - huge metro area and no pro sports team

Inland Empire - even huger metro area (4M) no pro sports team

San Francisco - yes it is close to San Jose but they are technically two different metro areas and it is chock-a-block with young, affluent, liberal and well educated potential fans. it would very much be a market the likes of Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Minneapolis

the important thing to remember here is that once MLS reaches 20 teams the most fertile and productive way in which soccer can grown in the US is by the growth and strengthening of D2. you can only have so many top flight soccer teams and the fight for the last few 2-4 spots should go only to the markets that can produced SSFC/TFC/VAN/MON like attendance results. MLS doesn't need another 2-4 teams in markets where they will average 15-16K they need teams in markets where they will average 18-20K or even more.

cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, Tampa, Miami, Minneapolis, etc all already have D2/D3 teams. if they want to prove they are worthy of one of the few remaining spots in MLS they need to support their teams and hope those teams are as well run as their other D2 brethren that have proven they belong in MLS and have thus been "expanded/promoted".

if places like Orlando, Detroit, San Antonio, OK City, Sacramento, Ottawa, Phoenix etc want to get an MLS team they should first start out by getting D2 teams, proving that the ownership group involved is solid and competent (or better yet successful) and that the fans will fervently support the team (like Van/Por/Mon). right now only TB Rowdies are even moderately successful but 4.5K doesn't cut it. any D2 team that wants to move up to MLS in the future should have to average at least 8-10K a game and be run by spectacularly committed ownership.

the only exception to D2 first then MLS i might make is for Atlanta. the MLS needs a team in the SE and Atlanta seems like the city with the most potential (well not SSFC potential but at least not Fusion/Mutiny failure either). San Diego and San Francisco should also get current teams (Chivas and SJE) moved to them as opposed to new expansion teams. both cities are very near where the struggling teams already are and under new/improved ownership those teams that struggle in their markets now could definitely take advantage of such ripe MLS markets. and let's be honest San Jose is not an A level market in the US while San Francisco is. all SJE have proved in their time in SJ is that SJ would make a great market for a D2 team to draw 7-11K fans. the only time that team draws more fans is when it plays in SF/Oak. so just move the team there, focus on being an urban hipster team like SSFC and become a 20K+ attendance juggernaut instead of a 14K straggler.
  • Aug 3 2010
Just so you know, SJE sells out most of their games at Buck Shaw Stadium now. Once they move to a nice 18,000-seater or so, they'll keep the place mostly filled, I would expect.

We also have to consider that DC United will probably be moving somewhere pretty soon. There just doesn't seem to be any initiative from the ownership and FO to keep us in DC.