With success of recent expansion, MLS keeps growing beyond original goal.
It Seems To Me. . .
Various cities vying for dwindling MLS expansion slots.
By Robert Wagman
(Tuesday, August 19, 2014) -- Major League Soccer says it intends to have 24 teams playing by 2020.
After New York City, Orlando and Atlanta -- all three of which have been granted expansion franchises -- begin play, the league will be at 22 teams. Depending on what happens to David Beckham's bid for a Miami franchise, MLS will have one or two openings. There is a major, developing competition for the one, or possibly two, potential franchises.
A typical summer forecast for Las Vegas calls for a pleasant high of 110 degrees. Sounds like perfect soccer weather, right? Well, it does to Justin Findlay and Blake Cordish of Findlay Sports and Entertainment of Las Vegas and The Cordish Companies of Baltimore. They are proposing that the City of Las Vegas fund a good part of a $201 million, 24,000-seat stadium in downtown Las Vegas and that MLS given them an expansion franchise to play there.
The pair traveled to New York to meeting with MLS deputy commissioner and president Mark Abbott. Afterwards, they released a statement saying, "We recently met with at the MLS league office in New York and were very impressed with their vision to pursue building a new soccer stadium and acquiring an MLS expansion club for Las Vegas,"
Abbott is quoted as saying in a statement: "We look forward to continuing discussions as they work to further develop their plans with Mayor [Carolyn] Goodman and the City of Las Vegas."
Early drawings show a stadium that would have covering for spectators, but the field would be open, but there is discussion of a facility that would have a retractable roof and air-conditioning to keep field temperatures playable. How much that would add to the cost is not yet unknown.
But wait; there is a second group that wants to bring MLS to Las Vegas. Jason Ader, who owns a Manhattan fund management company and is a director and shareholder of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., claims to have the backing of Asian investors in a $350-million effort to build an air-conditioned, covered 20,000-seat stadium to bring Major League Soccer to Las Vegas with plans to field a team including players with international appeal.
Adar has also met with Abbott. His proposal might have a leg up because it envisions no public money being spent.
Recently a soccer doubleheader featuring Olympiacos of Greece against Englands Manchester City and the minor-league Minnesota United against Ottawa of Canada at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis drew over 34,000, the largest crowd to watch a soccer match in the Twin Cities since the days of the Minnesota Kicks in the old North American Soccer league.
This showing, say advocates of a new MLS franchise in Minnesota, was proof that there is sufficient interest to justify being awarded to the area. What's more, two competing deep- pocketed groups are competing for the prospective franchise.
Owner of the National Football League's Minnesota Vikings Zygi Wilf is lined up against a group composed of former United Health chief executive officer Bill McGuire and owner of Major League Baseball's Minnesota Twins Jim Pohlad. McGuire already owns Minnesota United.
"We do have long-term plans to try and bring a Major League Soccer franchise to the market," Vikings executive vice president Lester Bagley told media at the doubleheader.
Both sides are advancing stadium plans. Bagley says that, as in Seattle, the Vikings think their new stadium is the perfect place for an MLS club. McGuire and Pohlad, meanwhile, are talking up a soccer-specific stadium they want to build next to the Twins' Target Field in what's known as the farmer's market area. They contend that soccer should be played outdoors on grass, not indoors on a carpet, which is what the new football stadium will offer.
The Vikings will open a new roofed stadium in July 2016. Meanwhile, they are quietly saying the outdoor soccer stadium is still speculative.
The story is legend. Software billionaire Vivek Ranadivé knew nothing about basketball until he was asked to coach his eight-year-old daughter's youth team. One thing led to another and Ranadivé fell enough in love with the game to buy the National Basketball Association's Sacramento Kings in May 2013 in order to keep the team from moving to Seattle.
Now, apparently, he has his eye on soccer, and is reportedly ready to back a bid by the owners of the minor-league Sacramento Republic to get a new MLS franchise. The Republic is currently on its way to setting a new third-division USL Pro attendance record by averaging nearly 14,000 per game this season.
Supposedly, Ranadive, who has quickly elevated himself into one of the more influential NBA owners, is ready to fast-track a new soccer-specific stadium. Kings president Chris Granger, Republic owner Warren Smith and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson met with MLS during the All-Star Game festivities in early August to push a bid.
Johnson pledged the city's support for a new venue. However, he told the media not to count on tax dollars to build a new stadium.
Even without public funding, this bid Republic president Warren Smith has to be taken seriously.
Minneapolis, Sacramento and Las Vegas appear to be the most serious bidders, but groups from other cities, including Cleveland, Memphis, New Orleans, Baltimore, San Diego and St. Louis, as well as one or two others have expressed interest. MLS says it will stop at 24 teams, but if the dollars are there, might not 26 seem feasible?