It has been a busy week for Major League Soccer and the Colorado Rapids. The Rapids will play their first home game of the 2015 season this Saturday at 2PM against New York City FC, they sold Deshorn Brown to Norway and picked up a brand spanking new kit sponsor.
And for MLS they are in the midst of a darn fine stretch of the 20th season with many exciting games and the debut of both NYCFC and Orlando City SC.
Needless to say, it has been a good two weeks.
And now the league appears to be ready to expand again. Don Garber released this letter this week:
NEW YORK (March 16, 2015) - Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber issued the following statement today regarding expansion:
"Expansion continues to be a priority for Major League Soccer. We have all witnessed the resounding success that Orlando City SC and New York City FC have experienced as their expansion clubs debuted to record crowds at the start of the 2015 season.
"During the past several months, we have conducted expansion meetings with representatives from Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Sacramento and visited all three markets. We have also met with representatives from San Antonio and St. Louis. We recently announced that Las Vegas is no longer being considered for this round of expansion."
"We are in advanced discussions with Bill McGuire and his partners in Minnesota to bring a Major League Soccer expansion club to the Twin Cities and are particularly excited about their plans for a new soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the club's home. We remain on track to announce the next MLS expansion market in the next 30-45 days, though no specific date for an announcement has been set.
"Over the course of 2015, we plan to evaluate potential expansion beyond 24 clubs."
So to recap:
To start the 2015 season, MLS has 20 clubs.
To start the 2017 season, MLS will have 22 clubs with the addition of Atlanta (full name TBD) and the second team in Los Angeles--LAFC.
We know that MLS wants to put a club in Miami and will do everything in their power to make that happen. So that is 23.
And with this news it seems that MLS is ready to go with Minnesota United FC making the jump from NASL to MLS.
Total number of teams would be 24.
Based on everything that is out there, the popularity of the league and the growing passion for soccer in the United States, there is not a snowballs chance in hell that they stop at 24.
But where to from there? If you look at the recent expansion teams and the success they have had, it is critical that MLS gets this right. We can't have another Chivas USA debacle on our hands. If you look at Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, Philadelphia Union and to a lesser extant, Montreal Impact--all have been very successful at launching their teams and building a supporters culture. They all seem to be soccer markets. And initial reviews of NYCFC and OCSC are good as well.
Side Note: The issues in Miami should be a massive red flag for the league and it is not as if they have already contracted a team there. Oh wait, they did. RIP Miami Fusion.
But assuming that Miami does get it all figured out and there are 24 teams by 2020, and if you believe that MLS is not done expanding, what is that number?
I nominate 28 teams. 14 in each conference. Here is how I would do it:
|Western Conference||Eastern Conference|
|Colorado Rapids||Chicago Fire|
|FC Dallas||Columbus Crew SC|
|Houston Dynamo||D.C. United|
|LA Galaxy||Montreal Impact|
|Portland Timbers||New England Revolution|
|Real Salt Lake||New York City FC|
|San Jose Earthquakes||New York Red Bulls|
|Seattle Sounders||Orlando City SC|
|Sporting Kansas City||Philadelphia Union|
|Vancouver Whitecaps||Toronto FC|
|Minnesota United FC||Miami MLS Franchise|
|Sacramento Republic FC||Atlanta MLS Franchise|
|San Antonio MLS Franchise||Saint Louis MLS Franchise|
|New Western Conference Franchise||New Eastern Conference Franchise|
I would suggest Las Vegas and a Carolina Franchise, but that is just me.
I know. 28 seems like an arbitrary number, but there is some sense to it (I think):
28 teams means you play the 13 other teams in your conference home and away for a total of 26 games. You would then play the other conference once a season for a total of 40 games.
40 seems like a large number for sure, but it means for 3 additional home games, which means more revenue for clubs. The length of the season does not necessarily have to expand if you start on March 1 and end on October 31. That is 35 weeks. A game each week and you have 5 weeks where you have a mid-week game as well. It would mean that the folks that create the schedule will need to get creative, but it is doable.
To make this work though, it would involve another increase in the CBA because if players are playing 6 more games a year, they deserve to have the appropriate compensation adjustment.
Now is this reality? Hell, I don't know. This is just my thinking and opinion on it. I am not sure that the folks at the MLS office have an idea how big this will get, but it does feel like that they are planning on expanding beyond the 24.
What do you think? Is 24 a good number? Or should they make the league larger? Let us know in the comment section below!