The addition of a MLS franchise in Philadelphia has been cheered by many, yet others see the announcement as yet another blow to their city’s hope to retain a franchise.
MLS has already stated that it hopes to add two more teams by 2010, and eventually tack on two more teams by 2012. That would leave MLS with 20 teams, which is the highest number of squads FIFA has argued should compose a nation’s top tier league. So the question is (assuming MLS listens to FIFA): who gets the four remaining teams?
St. Louis can pretty much go ahead and mark its 2010 calendar. The league has always wanted to expand into soccer-crazy St. Louis, and there is no reason that city is not the next selected… but then what?
Well, it would make sense then for only one of the three remaining teams to play in the West, while the other two set up camp in the East.
In the West, Las Vegas is usually brought up as a good venue for a squad, but pro teams have always been wary to set up shop in a town where gamblers rule. Portland also has argued it should be included in the debate, but the awarding of a franchise to nearby Seattle should squash its chances.
The frontrunner in the West though (in my opinion) should be Vancouver. Toronto FC fans showed exactly why last year. Canadians love their sports teams. Moreover, the city is well located, not too frigid in the early season, and is full of bona fide soccer fans. It’s the perfect fit of sorts.
In the East, both Miami and Atlanta have been in the beginning stages of pitching the league on the idea of setting up franchises. At least one of these two cities (if not both) is bound to get a team. There is simply no way the league will overlook the entire southeast.
New York also wants a second team, and one of the Carolinas (or a single squad a la the Panthers) could be in the mix.
Personally, I would like to see my hometown, Birmingham, get into the fray. However, anyone familiar with the local politics here knows putting together a marketable pitch to the league would be difficult. Let’s just say just about every elected official in the last two decades has ended up indicted. By the time Birmingham soccer fans got the local politicos on board to build a stadium, they would probably all be behind bars.
This is an (American) football town anyways. Alabamians don’t play games where you can’t use your hands. Or a gun.
So, Birmingham is out before it is even in. The cities that get the franchises will have to get moving though. 2012 is so much closer than it seems, at least when one considers the expansion decision will likely be made as early as the end of next year.
So without further ado, here are my Power Rankings for Next MLS City:
(1) St. Louis
(5) Las Vegas
(6) New York (Queens)
(9) A Frozen-Over Hell