It has been over two months since 12 hopeful expansion groups submitted their formal bids to MLS for consideration as one of the next (and final?) four expansion franchises, bringing the league to 28 teams. Since then, there hasn’t been a whole lot of MLS expansion news of significance to chew on outside of Landon Donovan being formally named to the San Diego bid. The vote this week in St. Louis was really the first meaningful measuring stick for any of the 12 bidding cities.
In a drama filled evening, St. Louis citizens delivered what can only be described as a truly stunning defeat of their MLS chances. The stadium proposition failed by a vote of 53% – 47%. 3,300 votes separated the two sides. As an outsider looking in, this is a bit shocking, in part due to the star power that was backing their bid. The Commissioner of MLS, Don Garber, visited St. Louis just last week in an effort to galvanize the vote across the finish line. He brought with him one of US Soccer’s biggest and very locally loved voices in Taylor Twellman. Other notable celebrities such as broadcaster Joe Buck publicly rallied around the cause, and still the vote did not pass. Before San Antonio fans start popping the champagne, it’s important to note that, despite words to the contrary, a plan B “could” exist. Time will tell on that front, but Alderman Cara Spencer (@caraspencerstl on Twitter) tweeted earlier in the week “I love soccer, played under an Olympian in HS. On the 5th I’ll be ready to work on a plan to regionally pay for this regional amenity.”
I love soccer, played under an Olympian in HS. On the 5th I'll be ready to work on a plan to regionally pay for this regional amenity. #MLS
— Cara Spencer (@CaraSpencerSTL) March 29, 2017
On the other side of the coin, Jason Rosenbaum (@jrosenbaum on Twitter) wrote shortly after the final results were in that “SC STL’s Jim Kavanaugh says there is no plan B for MLS in St. Louis. Prop 2’s defeat is a death knell for #mls2stl” While it may be too early to definitively throw dirt on St. Louis, MLS indicated in their statement after the vote, this represents a “significant setback for the city’s expansion opportunity.”
SC STL's Jim Kavanaugh says there is no plan B for MLS in St. Louis. Prop 2's defeat is a death knell for #mls2stl.
— Jason Rosenbaum (@jrosenbaum) April 5, 2017
— Mike Faulk (@Mike_Faulk) April 5, 2017
The other big piece of news from this week was that the San Diego group announced that they are joining the San Diego Convention Center Expansion on the November Special Ballot, per Jack Cronin (@JackCroninPXP on Twitter).
— Jack Cronin (@JackCroninPXP) April 4, 2017
.@SoccerCitySD FS Investors saying Major League Soccer told them the Special Election in San Diego on November 7th would work for the expansion timeline.
— Jack Cronin (@JackCroninPXP) April 4, 2017
Cronin went on to report that “FS Investors saying Major League Soccer told them the Special Election in San Diego on November 7th would work for the expansion timeline.”
Roger Showley from The San Diego Union Tribune further clarified that news in his story, writing “The SoccerCity decision came after Major League Soccer said it would delay until after the vote the decision of which proposals for new franchises will be chosen among 12 bidders, according to La Jolla-based FS Investors, the official bidder for a San Diego team.” As such, we may not hear about the first two winners in the expansion race until November of this year. This is particularly interesting and significant in regards to #MLSinSA because Judge Nelson Wolff has repeatedly mentioned that San Antonio is targeting November for a potential Bond vote as it relates to expanding Toyota Field. We’re hoping to hear more about Stadium funding, and perhaps even a glimpse at SSE’s new stadium renderings, sometime in the coming weeks.
What does the outcome in St. Louis and the news in San Diego mean for San Antonio? It may mean a moment of caution about public funding and votes. But let’s save that conversation for another time. In our opinion, San Antonio was initially unlikely to grab one of the first two spots solely based on markets that MLS has seemingly made a priority compared to other markets. Namely St. Louis and San Diego. Most of the 12 markets in this game can’t lay claim to a showing of public support from the MLS front office that they’ve given those two cities. However, the failed vote in St. Louis could be highly significant. If there really is no plan B or if there isn’t one that MLS is willing to sign off on, this presents a possibly HUGE opportunity for San Antonio to be a serious contender for expansion way earlier in the process than originally thought. Furthermore, if that November voting timeline for San Diego holds true and San Antonio can also get on the ballot in a similar timeframe – can San Antonio completely be ruled out for teams 25 and 26? We’d have to say no. After all, just like in St. Louis, the San Diego vote can always go south. And that’s just one potential unexpected outcome. You also have to factor that, regionally speaking, San Antonio could easily fill a gap in the Central part of the country (albeit, much further south) that was once penciled in for St Louis. Rivalries and a true Texas Cup, a la the Cascadia Cup in the Pacific Northwest, await in FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo. That’s a pretty excellent final result for MLS, if you asked us.
@MLSinSA Too bad there's not a city in STL's quadrant of the nation with MLS intentions, a USL team AND a stadium
— Phil West ⚽️ (@philwest) April 5, 2017
No matter what happens with teams 25 and 26, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic in San Antonio’s chances. Even if you believe that San Antonio is “for sure” not one of the two markets destined to be announced as an expansion market in 2017, and further, that all ten remaining markets stay in the game come 2018 (Detroit and Indy in particular have stadium issues to resolve and the clock is ticking, Tampa Bay has their own stadium vote in May, St. Louis may be dead – and we won’t even mention the Miami situation) you have to like San Antonio’s prospects of being named either team 27 or 28. You can explore our website for specific details on the many reasons why we feel San Antonio has a complete bid and is immediately ready for MLS expansion, but in our opinion, it really all comes down to Spurs Sports and Entertainment. It’s going to be immensely difficult for MLS to turn away an ownership group of their caliber.
For now, we will continue to wait for more news on the Toyota Field expansion from SSE, updates about how they plan on paying for it, and also, for official announcements from MLS about teams 25 and 26. We’ll also continue to monitor developments in the other 11 markets and we’ll keep you updated as the MLS expansion process continues to unfold.
Here are two ways YOU can get involved TODAY. Before you leave our site, please sign our Petition and help us reach our goal of 10k signatures. Also, take 5 seconds to sign up for our Newsletter so that you can be sure that you won’t miss any big #MLSinSA news or announcements. Then tell two friends to do the same thing. As always, thanks so much for your support, passion, and dedication for bringing MLS to San Antonio.
The MLSinSA Team