MLS Expansion News – Six Markets, Part Two – 2/9

News from six markets competing for an MLS expansion spot: Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, Tampa, and Indianapolis.


Last week, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, Sacramento and Indianapolis. This article features updates from the remaining six markets, including Cincinnati.

The expansion landscape across twelve cities is complex, dynamic, and several markets have a reasonable chance for a successful bid. Cincinnati is covered last in order to review how news from other markets affects the Cincinnati bid.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.

Saint Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri

Summary: St. Louis’ embattled stadium proposal has been stuck in government red tape for several weeks. Despite the challenges, the SC STL ownership group submitted its MLS application on January 31st. The proposal passed the full board of Alderman in early February and is on its way to an April ballot for the St. Louis public to approve.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/26 – It took two votes, but the stadium proposal passed the Aldermanic Ways and Means committee 5-4 and progresses to a decision by the full board of Alderman. [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/31 – The SC STL ownership group submits their MLS application on January 31st. [St. Louis Today]
  • 2/3 – The stadium proposal passes the full board of Alderman and will go onto an April ballot as long as a circuit judge approves. [Herald Whig]
  • 2/4 – St. Louis voters may not support the stadium proposal on the April ballot. The article cites a January survey whose results suggest voters are opposed to the use of public funds to help build a stadium. [Soccer America]

Link with details of St. Louis’ TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.

San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas

Summary: San Antonio’s ownership group (SSE) plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. Brian Straus released his MLS expansion profile for the city in late January, giving everyone a little peek behind the curtain. SSE submitted their MLS application on January 31st along with the other 12 markets. Today, San Antonio FC announced an affiliation agreement with NYCFC.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/25 – San Antonio MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/31 – SSE submits MLS application on January 31st. [KVUE San Antonio]
  • 2/1 – Renovations to Toyota Field could cost upward of $100M, but the stadium is already built so San Antonio believes it has an advantage. [KSAT 12 San Antonio]
  • 2/2 – A local news outlet gives the San Antonio MLS bid long odds to secure a spot. [My SA]
  • 2/9 – San Antonio FC announces 2017 affiliation with New York City FC. [San Antonio FC]

Link with details of San Antonio’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.

San Diego

San Diego, California

Summary: Don Garber visited San Diego to publicly accept the ownership group’s application aboard the USS Midway. Since the bid went public with plans on 1/23 and submitted their MLS bid on 1/30, San Diego has been relatively quiet. There is still a lot to work through on the stadium proposal, specifically regarding acquiring land and getting city / public approval for the project.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/27 – San Diego’s ownership group has ties to the Sacramento Kings (former), Qualcomm, and the San Diego Padres. [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/30 – San Diego formally submits its MLS application with a ceremony including Don Garber aboard the USS Midway. [SD Union Tribune]
  • 2/6 – Acquiring the land to build the stadium could be problematic. The ownership group will likely try to avoid a public vote. [Voice of SD]

Link with details of San Diego’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.

Tampa / St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Florida

Summary: Lead investor Bill Edwards made quite a spectacle when he delivered Tampa’s MLS application. Edwards, a former Tampa mayor, and a supporters group traveled to NY to drop off the application. They also sponsored an electronic #MLS2STPETE billboard in Times Square to add to the fanfare. A key vote on the stadium proposal is scheduled for May.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/28 – An Orlando article explores Tampa, Miami, and Orlando and how they are at different stages of the MLS expansion lifecycle. Orlando City SC CEO calls the Tampa bid “very premature.” [Orlando Sentinel]
  • 1/30 – Bill Edwards travels to NY to deliver the MLS application in person amid fanfare. [Tampa Times]
  • 1/30 – The Tampa presentation at MLS HQ featured dancers in sequin, crates of Florida oranges, and Rowdies Pete, their pelican mascot. [Empire of Soccer]

Link with details of Tampa’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Phoenix, Arizona

Note: Complete market details are included for Phoenix because they recently joined the expansion race.

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #12
Team: Phoenix Rising FC – USL (formerly Arizona United FC)
Venue: A proposed privately funded, climate-controlled stadium on a 45 acre site in south Scottsdale
Money: Ownership group led by Burke Bakay, (Kona Grill and Phoenix Rising FC)
Summary: Phoenix announced its bid less than a week before the application deadline. Phoenix is late to the game, but its large market size, Southwestern location, and privately funded stadium will be attractive to the MLS expansion committee. The Phoenix application was submitted on time on January 31st.
Recent News & Resources: 

Link with details of Phoenix’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.


Cincinnati, Ohio

Summary: The Cincinnati bid submitted its application on time, but true to form, released very little information about its contents. FC Cincinnati General Manager Jeff Berding stated that it “satisfied all the requirements,” and is “far stronger than people think.” The city’s USL team continues to receive exceptional support, recently surpassing the 10,000 season ticket holder threshold. The most recent news involves speculation about the location and architecture of a potential new stadium.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 1/31 – Cincinnati bid submits expansion application to MLS. [Cincinnati Business Courier]
  • 2/1 – Cincinnati MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 2/3 – Northern Kentucky could be a location option for the new stadium. [River City News]
  • 2/6 – Mayor doesn’t see public funds being used for a new stadium. [Enquirer]
  • 2/7 – Architect Hints at FC Cincinnati Stadium Design [Cincinnati Business Courier]
  • 2/8 – FC Cincinnati passes 10,000 in season ticket sales for 2017 season. [Enquirer]

Link with details of Cincinnati’s TV Market, ownership group, existing team, and more.

How does news from other markets affect the Cincinnati bid?

Cincinnati’s application is in and all 12 markets are moving on to the interview process. MLS’ plan was to announce two of the four winning bids by the third fiscal quarter of this year. However, MLS President Mark Abbot recently stated that it could take until the end of the year to make those selections.

As of early February, here’s how the picture has changed.

Cincinnati started its expansion quest with a lot of competition, and now there’s even more. Phoenix is a western market and is competing more directly with other regional markets rather than Cincinnati. While not a favorite for the top four, Phoenix’s market size and southwestern geography make it one to watch as the year plays out. As a mid-sized midwestern market, Indianapolis is more directly competing with the Queen City. Indy Eleven is a good organization and has compelling fan support, but the ownership groups, TV markets, and stadium plans of St. Louis and Detroit present bigger threats. So yes, there are two more markets, but the strongest bids were probably already in play.

Several strong markets have cleared significant obstacles recently. Saint Louis, Detroit, and Charlotte have all recently made progress on bids that rely on public/private funding. St. Louis’ stadium proposal is on to an April vote. Detroit is close to securing the Wayne county jail site for their stadium complex. Sacramento recently avoided an ownership coup that would have changed the expansion race in the west. So far, the big bids are getting by, if just barely. It certainly would help Cincinnati’s cause of one or two strong markets fell by the wayside.

It’s difficult to handicap the Cincinnati bid with the level of confidentiality around the application. That’s also clearly how the organization wants it. The only bid of the 12 that is more tight-lipped is San Antonio. Many Cincinnati fans have a healthy sense of belief in the team’s management and ownership after year one. I believe Jeff Berding when he says the bid is “far stronger than people think.” The city’s fan support can be a differentiator, but only if every other facet of the bid is spot on. #MLS2Cincy supporters will have to lean on that belief as the year plays out, because they’re not likely to get much more compelling information to chew on.

Only the MLS expansion committee has anything close to the full set of facts. So the rest of us will argue, worry, cringe, and celebrate as the race unfolds and the lens focuses ever so slowly on four winning markets.

Do you know of recent news or key facts about these MLS expansion contenders not mentioned above?  Let us know in the comments section.


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