- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On September 17, 2013
- 5 Comments
- Features, MLS Expansion
It is all about having a national footprint. That has been the discussion and comment that I’ve received from several folks at Major League Soccer over the last few years with regards to league expansion.
As MLS looks to expand to 24 clubs by the end of the decade, it has become apparent that the league plans to fix their national footprint by bringing in not one, not two, but three expansion clubs to the Southeast with the likely addition of Atlanta, Orlando and Miami.
While the Southeast has their advantages and disadvantages, the fact remains clear, the league is going there for a couple important reasons.
First of all, location. You can’t call yourself a national league if you are ignoring a key section of the country. That is an argument I’ve heard for a number of years from people in the Southeast. The markets in that region are big enough to support a MLS team. Atlanta for one is a top ten media market with Miami and Orlando not too far behind them.
Secondly, there is money to be made in this region.
MLS is at a point in their brief history that expansion isn’t about playing it safe, or going with a city with tons of soccer history. It’s about dollars, and finding deep-pocketed ownership groups with the financial muscle to not just buy an MLS expansion franchise, but also fund a team to succeed in a league where teams are spending more and more each year.
Bringing in those three cities closes the map up nationally in a way the league hasn’t been able to do. It should help bring in the TV viewers from those regions as well as more sponsorship dollars. With the chance to have new sponsors from that region, the ability to get more money may outweigh some of the apparent disadvantages of being in that region.
Lastly, the time just seems right. There is no science or stats that can really back that comment up. It just seems like that right time to me for the league to go back to this region. Sure the markets in the Southeast are not known for their support of their local teams. I get that and have been questioning their ability to support a MLS team all this time as well.
But at the same time, you don’t know what you have until you try it. None of these markets have been tested on a high level with good financial backing before. Miami for one could easily thrive with the right owner, in the right location for their stadium and with that demographics in place. I’ve said that all along. Same does go for Atlanta.
MLS won’t ignore the Southeast any longer. That much we know. While it isn’t perfect and there are certainly ‘more worthy’ markets that should be part of MLS, it is hard to argue with why the league is going in this direction.