Well, that didn’t take long.
Only days after mentioning his twin ambitions of moving to the MLS and expanding Al Lang Stadium, Tampa Bay Rowdies’ owner Bill Edwards finds his team among 10 teams being considered for expansion by North America’s most prestigious soccer league.
The MLS is currently at 20 teams — three others are planned — but has plays to go to 28.
“I want to be the first of the 10 potential cities to earn an MLS franchise,” Edwards said.
The team expects to expand by two teams to begin play in 2020. The league said it required a committed ownership group, strong fan support and a comprehensive stadium plan.
“It’s great to know that less than two weeks after announcing our campaign, Major League Soccer is acknowledging us as one of the potential expansion cities,” Edwards said. “Bringing Major League Soccer to the Tampa Bay area by 2020 is my goal.”
The Rowdies would seem to have a built-in rivalry with Orlando.
Also helping Edwards’ MLS bid is the stalled plans by soccer superstar David Beckham to bring a stadium to Miami, which led MLS Commissioner Don Garber last week to suggest putting a deadline on Beckham’s deal, or owners will be forced to consider another market — with St. Petersburg inching up the list.
Garber’s idea is to have at least 24 teams in the current 20-team league, telling reporters in Toronto earlier this month that if expansion doesn’t happen: “there are going to be a lot of things that we have to move around.”
Expansion applications are due Jan. 31, with Sports Illustrated reporting that requests must include a business plan featuring ownership structure, potential stadium sites, financing and projections as well as sponsorship opportunities and information about the local soccer community.
Bill Edwards long-term plan for Al Lang Stadium and the Rowdies in St. Petersburg can certainly check every one of those boxes.