Rivalry is good for soccer, and that’s good for the chances of the Tampa Bay Rowdies securing a Major League Soccer franchise.
In January, Rowdies’ owner Bill Edwards delivered the team’s expansion application to MLS headquarters, after being named one of the 11 candidates in the running for an expansion team. Tampa Bay currently is the largest media market in the U.S. without an MLS franchise.
Sports Illustrated recently hinted that Orlando City SC’s proximity also could prove a negative, “especially if City objects to an MLS team a little more than 100 miles away.”
But that may not be the case, particularly in the view of MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
In a video clip posted on Twitter by Fox13’s Kevin O’Donnell, Garber believes that the Rowdies having Orlando City nearby actually “adds to the value of its bid.”
“I think it helps,” Garber says. “I’m a big believer in ‘concentrate your teams’ and have close rivals.”
“It worked in New York and, work next year in Los Angeles,” he adds. “Rivalries are what drive our sport. I think the fact that there is a candidate not that far from here adds to the value of their bid.”
Some of the strongest parts of Edwards’ bid are extensive community support and plans for a privately-funded, $80 million expansion of Al Lang Stadium, which Patrick Brennan of Cincinnati.com says is “essentially ready-made for the expansion, which would upgrade the facility and increase capacity from 7,200-plus to about 18,000.”
Having a built -in rivalry with Orlando wouldn’t hurt, either.
Last month, the St. Petersburg City Council approved a citywide referendum May 2 for a lease expansion for Al Lang, which takes a major step in the Rowdies MLS expansion plan by signing a 25-year lease with the city to begin renovations.
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) March 6, 2017