The MLS expansion landscape has seen several new wrinkles in the last few weeks, so we wanted to update you on all the latest happenings.
The biggest news by far is that Tampa Bay passed their referendum on May 2nd with a whopping 87% of those who cast a ballot voting in favor. Naturally, the team was excited.
— Tampa Bay Rowdies (@TampaBayRowdies) May 2, 2017
And Major League Soccer even issued a statement about the results.
— Jonathan Arnholz (@JArnholz) May 3, 2017
This vote was a different type of vote than the one we saw fail in St Louis last month. This vote was not about dollars, but rather, to allow their City Council to negotiate a Use Agreement due to the location of Tampa Bay’s stadium. As expected, Tampa Bay passed this test quite easily, and their stadium expansion plans continue to press forward. It’s important to note, this in no way guarantees that Tampa Bay is MLS bound, but it is a significant hurdle cleared in their favor.
In Phoenix, as if they needed any more star power with the likes of Pete Wentz and Diplo in their ranks, the Phoenix Rising FC ownership group added soccer legend and former Chelsea and Montreal Impact standout Didier Drogba to their ownership group. They further announced his intention to play for the USL side in 2017. For a great take on this from the Phoenix perspective, read this excellent piece from friend of the Pitch Black News Podcast, Kyle Kepner.
In St Louis, two reporters from the St Louis Post-Dispatch had conflicting viewpoints on whether or not a plan B was in the works for the Midwestern soccer hotbed. First, Jose de Jesus Ortiz raised some eyebrows when he tweeted this:
What if I told you the #mls2stl stadium hopes may be percolating again? Plan B may be crystallizing. That's what my spies are hearing.
— Jose de Jesus Ortiz (@OrtizKicks) April 26, 2017
Followed a day later by Mike Faulk’s rebuttal:
There is still no Plan B for #mls2stl. That's not to say people aren't trying, or dreaming, whichever is more accurate.
— Mike Faulk (@Mike_Faulk) April 26, 2017
For our money, Mike Faulk has been the one closely covering this story for months, so we trust his opinion the most. We’ll continue to keep our eyes on this one. Call St Louis on life support with a faint pulse for now. For what it’s worth, Katlyn Keller of the St Louis Business Journal reported that the #MLS2STL group officially closed their stadium campaign fund.
— Katlyn Keller (@stlbizkkeller) May 2, 2017
In Indianapolis, their stadium plan appears to be going nowhere, at least through 2017. They did not meet the deadline to get a stadium proposal on the General Assembly before they adjourned their latest session. While certainly there is time for Indy to rebound before this round of the expansion process is complete, they look to be hitting the brakes for the near future. You can read more from the Indianapolis Business Journal.
In Nashville, Ingram Industries chairman John Ingram met with MLS Commissioner Don Garber in New York City recently, per several media reports. Ingram is working on a stadium plan that would be built close to downtown Nashville. Like San Antonio, Nashville will host Gold Cup matches this summer.
And while not directly part of the 4 team expansion race, Miami continues to loom large, all the same. The latest news saw Beckham’s group add Billionaire Todd Boehly to their ownership group. Boehly is probably best known for being part of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers ownership group since 2012. We think Miami’s bid is far from dead, despite continuous speculation on the matter in the typical soccer circles. Any time you add a billionaire to your ownership group, it can’t be considered a bad thing. Next steps to watch for in Miami – do they complete the purchase of the needed land for their stadium and if so, what’s the timing for the completion of that purchase? Read more on the Boehly story from the Miami Herald.
For a much more comprehensive overview of everything MLS expansion related, you can read the latest report from SI’s Planet Futbol reporter Brian Straus. It’s a pretty terrific read, as always.
Just when you thought you'd get thru the week w/out 3K words on MLS expansion, here are 3K words on MLS expansion https://t.co/iulboZFQLd
— Brian Straus (@BrianStraus) April 28, 2017
For fun, we wanted to update you on the average USL/NASL attendance for 2017 of the 12 cities vying for MLS. It’s worth noting San Diego, Detroit and Nashville do not have teams currently in those leagues. We also have not included Miami since they are not technically part of this four team expansion group. These numbers come from each team’s “official” home attendance, and are compiled in a nice chart each week by Mike Pendleton.
— Mike Pendleton (@phat7deuce) May 1, 2017
Average USL/NASL Attendance 2017:
1 – CIN 19,608
2 – SAC 11,569
3 – IND 8,094
4 – SA 6,898
5 – PHX 6,794
6 – TB 5,591
7 – NC 5,176
8 – STL 4,827
9 – CLT 1,539
Here in San Antonio it’s worth noting that we will elect a Mayor and a new City Council on Saturday May 6th. For information on your polling place, please visit: https://www.bexar.org/1568/Elections-Department . It’s important to be heard so make sure you get out and vote this weekend, if you haven’t already done so.
Speaking of voting, San Antonio did get one “vote” of confidence from the prominent soccer community this past week. Kartik Krishnaiyer had this to say for “The Yanks Are Coming” website. “Flying somewhat under the radar while others try and make a splash and effectively play the media, San Antonio is a sure-fire bet for a successful club should MLS select the city.” You can read his entire MLS expansion piece here:
— The Yanks Are Coming (@YanksAreComing) April 27, 2017
With all this exciting stadium news out of Tampa Bay, it’s natural to wonder what’s going on with the plans to expand Toyota Field here in San Antonio and the simple answer is – we don’t know. We continue to wait for more news on the Toyota Field expansion from SSE, and how they plan on paying for it. As history shows, SSE is more about substance than sizzle, so we’ll all have to remain patient as they continue to conduct their important business out of the public spotlight. But the clock is definitely ticking so we hope that news will come sooner rather than later.
On the field, April couldn’t have been much better for San Antonio FC as the team fought to 6 victories in their first 7 matches in an undefeated stretch of games that saw SAFC finish the month in first place in the USL West. Without a doubt, it seems that all aspects of San Antonio FC will be very much worth following in 2017.
Finally, we’ll continue to monitor for official announcements from MLS about teams 25 and 26. With the news of San Diego’s vote taking place this coming November, it’s a good bet it will be very late in 2017 before we know which two markets punch their golden ticket to the big time.
Want to help our cause here in San Antonio? Before you leave the site today, 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. As always, thanks so much for your support, passion, and dedication, San Antonio.
– The MLS in SA Team