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Does St. Petersburg face tough climb to get MLS team?

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From the outside, it would appear that St. Petersburg has some catching up to do in its pursuit of Major League Soccer, particularly if it wants to be on the front-burner of expansion.

St. Petersburg, home of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, has announced that it wishes to expand Al Lang and join the MLS. But the website fiftyfiveone.com, evaluating the 10 cities that are scrambling for a team, ranks St. Petersburg only eighth.

Owner Bill Edwards has said he would like to join the MLS in short order.

However, the website ranks Sacramento and St. Louis as the odds-on favorites, followed by Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Raleigh and San Antonio. On this site’s list, St. Petersburg-Tampa Bay ranks ahead of only San Diego and Nashville. The site used demographics such as population, growth and Forbes 500 companies, which isn’t the entire picture, but it’s a start.

Of course, it’s hard to see the league expanding to both Charlotte and Raleigh. Cincinnati needs stadium expansion. Detroit needs to shore up its ownership.

Regardless,the perception is out there that  if St. Pete is to crack the list – particularly for the next expansion – then there is work to do. Edwards’ plea of fan support is vital, and the stadium plan has to come together quickly.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

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