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One Benefit Of MLS Expansion: A More Competitive Western Conference

Major League Soccer is on a shopping spree to add new teams in (sometimes) new markets. This may or may not be a good thing, but it could push some strong teams to the Western Conference.

The Colorado Rapids and Orlando City played earlier this year
The Colorado Rapids and Orlando City played earlier this year

Orlando City has the headlines during the long playoff layoff with news that the USL Pro squad would become a Major League Soccer team in 2015. No sooner did the inevitable news become officials did the MLS news media start speculating about forthcoming markets.

This rapid expansion to the league is a troublesome prospect. Quick expansion dilutes the talent in a league that should be trying to find ways to be able to pay players more, and thus attract better players and snag better television contracts. Fans of the National Hockey League in the late 1980s and early 1990s will recall that the league's expansion run in the mid-1990s tarnished the quality of the game and nullified long-standing rivalries.

While the prospect of MLS suddenly getting to big for its britches is cause for alarm, there may be some upside to it for the Colorado Rapids in the short term.

Orlando City's expansion comes on the heels of the announcement of New York F.C. earlier this year. It's likely these clubs will go to the Eastern Conference, which already has 10 teams compared to the Western Conference's current nine. Logic dictates that at least one if not two squads will have to move to the Western Conference to maintain some competitive balance.

The likeliest westward migrants would be Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. Both of these teams have played in the Western Conference before. Houston would link up with a clear geographical rival in F.C. Dallas. Sporting Kansas City would reunite with the Colorado Rapids, two teams that have often butted heads in the MLS playoffs over the years, as recently as 2011.

Not only that, but the Western Conference would inherit two of the Eastern Conferences two stronger teams. It would make it harder for a team like the Rapids to make the playoffs, but would add compelling matches to Colorado's schedule.