Remember when people used to snarl, “Soccer will never catch on in the States”? Well, you’re probably not hearing that as much these days — thanks, in part, to the gradual expansion of Major League Soccer.
“It’s boom times for soccer in America, and while the play overseas may still nab the lion’s share of attention, the expanding league at home is growing by leaps and bounds,” Brian Quarles wrote in a recent sports marketing column on MediaPost.com. “Continuity, quality and consistency are three words that you can now safely use to describe MLS. The league is having a moment.”
Groups in a dozen cities are bidding on four Major League Soccer expansion franchises — with two likely to be awarded later this year and the other two in 2018. Many of the proposals do not include permanent stadium plans.
The cities in the running: Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati; Detroit; Indianapolis; Nashville; Phoenix; Raleigh, N.C.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Antonio; San Diego; St. Louis; and Tampa, Fla. For a rundown of each bid’s strengths and weaknesses, click here.
MLS, which kicked off in 1996 with 10 teams, currently boasts 22 teams (19 in the United States and three in Canada). Two new clubs — Los Angeles and Miami — are expected to begin play in 2018, with at least two of the four newest teams taking the field by the 2020 season.
Whichever cities are the chosen ones, the process of becoming an MLS franchise is pricy: The entry fee alone is $150 million per team.