Which City Should Be The Final MLS Expansion?


Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Sacramento have all posted bids to become the final MLS expansion according to mlssoccer.com. With the goal of being a 24-team league by 2020, the league already has two new franchises set to debut for the 2015 season. Former USL Pro side Orlando City will debut next season, along with the expansion franchise New York City Football Club giving the league 20 teams for 2015.

Chivas USA is set to re-brand as Los Angeles Football Club, and return to the league at the start of the 2017 season. Joining LAFC in 2017 will be an Atlanta franchise, which will be owned by the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. A 23rd spot has also been reserved for David Beckham’s Miami franchise, though no start date has been set, with the club negotiating with the city of Miami on a possible stadium location.

More from Editorials

This leaves one spot remaining in the league’s current expansion plans. MLS will have to take the three bidders, and weed them down to find one final location for expansion. Sacramento currently have a club with the USL Pro’s Sacramento Republic FC.

The owners of SRFC — along with a group consisting of the owners of the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson — are part of the leaders behind the bid. In Sacramento Republic FC’s inaugural season, Sacramento broke the record for average attendance. The club averaged 11,293 fans, including a 20,231 sell-outs for the club’s first match.

For the state of Minnesota, the odds are double, with two groups having bid for an MLS expansion franchise. One consisting of the NASL’s Minnesota United FC owners, and the other consisting of the NFL’s Minnesota Viking’s ownership group. Both groups have good qualifications for an expansion franchise. Minnesota United FC are an established NASL franchise, having made their debut during the 2010 season as the Minnesota Stars. The club was purchased from the league in 2012 and re-branded as Minnesota United FC.

The Viking’s backed bid lacks a current club, but has the backing of Viking ownership. The Vikings offer both financial backing and future stadium plans. Though MLS requires a soccer-specific stadium for its new expansion clubs, the new stadium planned for downtown Minneapolis would serve as both the MLS franchise’s home as well as the Viking’s home. A major stadium, much like that of the Seattle Sounders’ home, would provide the club with a state of the art stadium for years to come.

More from The Top Flight

Las Vegas on the other hand, has no current professional soccer club. The only club currently playing in the area is the Semi-Professional USL PDL’s Las Vegas Mobsters. The city however, is considered to be one of the top targets of MLS. One major roadblock for a possible expansion franchise would be a stadium. A stadium that would meet MLS requirements would require an estimated $200 million, and would require public funds.

A vote on any downtown stadium using public funds will occur in December. Any hope of MLS coming to Las Vegas will require this to pass. Another hurdle for a franchise in Las Vegas would be the heat. With the summers normally topping 105 degrees, all matches would almost definitely need to take place at night.

In the end, all three cities bring their own qualifications to the table — as well as their own roadblocks. MLS officials will need to think long and hard to determine which of the cities is more deserving of an MLS franchise. In the end, I believe that Sacramento will be chosen as the 24th MLS franchise.

With Atlanta, Miami, Orlando and New York all getting franchises, there is a need for more clubs out west. Las Vegas is still a dream for most sport leagues, and should remain one for the foreseeable future. If the league is to secure a new west-coast franchise, Sacramento should be the place.

No matter which one is selected though, all three bidding cities have qualifications and should become MLS franchises in the future. The question however will be when, when MLS will expand again? No matter when though, the two cities not chosen should have an advantage next time around to become apart of MLS.