Right now, the race for a new MLS expansion team seems to be in a 12-team tie.
At least, that was the impression from a 45-minute conference call with MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, who was careful not to handicap the race and to say only good things about the contestants.
Abbott did say his Expansion Committee – to be made up of team owners – will want a decision on the next four MLS teams by the end of this year with an eye on 2020. He repeated that his criteria was 1) whether it has the dynamics from a fan support criteria to be successful; 2) whether it can add to the league from a media standpoint; 3. whether it has a solid ownership group and 4) its stadium plan.
Where does that put St. Petersburg? Certainly, it would seem to be in the top half. 1) It’s popular. 2) It has the largest media market currently without a team; 3) Plans have been discussed to add to Al Lang and 4) Bill Edwards has been one of the most dependable owners in the NASL.
“Some of the factors are factors that we talked about,” Abbott said.
Said Edwards: “Today Major League Soccer hosted a media call with MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott to discuss the expansion applications they received. We are very encouraged by Deputy Commissioner Abbott’s comments related to our ownership, media market, stadium plan and team history. Our assets stack up well against Major League Soccer’s criteria for selecting expansion cities.”
Are there problems in other cities?
Sure. Sacramento is still working on a unified ownership group. Miami has had problems getting a stadium. Cincinnati is currently in Nippert Stadium. Charlotte has no history of a pro soccer league.
Look at the 12 cities, and it’s easy to put them into four categories, even if Abbott won’t.
1. The favorites: St. Louis, Sacramento, Detroit.
2. The darkhorses: St. Petersburg, Cincinnati, Minnesota.
3. The longshots: Indianapolis, Raleigh, Phoenix.
4. Thanks for playing: Charlotte, Nashville, San Diego.