MLS Expansion Takes Shape


Posted Tue, Jul 28, 2015

Major League Soccer: was established as the top level of professional soccer league in the United States in 1993 with 10 teams which began play in 1996. Today they are in U.S. and Canada. (Photo courtesy of MLS)

Major League Soccer: was established as the top level of professional soccer league in the United States in 1993 with 10 teams which began play in 1996. Today they are in U.S. and Canada. (Photo courtesy of MLS)

The world of sports is ever-changing regardless of suspensions, wins or losses, new hires and firings. Sports will forever be a business. That holds for Major League Soccer, which was established as the top level of professional soccer league in the United States in 1993 with 10 teams which began play in 1996.

Today, MLS is not only located in the United States but also Canada. It is composed of 20 teams—17 in the U.S. and three in Canada. The league’s regular season runs from March to October, with each team playing 34 games ending in the championship game, the MLS Cup.

“I watch some soccer, some MLS soccer, some Rapids soccer, but I mainly watch Rapids soccer,” said MSU Denver student Davy Burke.

Unlike Burke, others look abroad for their soccer fix. “I watch many levels of professional soccer, but I prefer the English Premier League,” said MSU Denver Marketing professor Darrin Duber-Smith.

MLS is consider one of the major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada, along with the National Hockey League, National Football League, Major League Baseball and National Basketball Association.

However, they are not consented to be the same level as the other power leagues like the English Premier League or the Spanish Primera División.

“The talent is not the greatest and the talent obviously over there in Europe,” Burke said. Duber-Smith agreed.

“The English Premier League has developed over a really, really long time even before they were the Premier League and just English League, and it’s always had the top players. I think we will be up there with the lower levels of the top Europe divisions in the next ten years, but not the top four,” Duber-Smith said. “We aren’t there yet, but the thing is, we have to attract star power, so not just players that want to retire—so that means giving out big salaries and getting big-name sponsors with deep pockets.”

Moreover, they are trying to make steps towards being on the same levels as those leagues. The keyword is ‘expansion.’ The expansion of Major League Soccer has occurred several times since the league began play, with the first in 1998 and again in 2006, when they burst onto the Canadian scene. 20 teams isn’t enough for the MLS: they want more.

The plan is by the year of 2020, MLS hopes to add an additional four teams, for a total of 24. They will gain the 21st and 22nd teams in 2017 with one in Atlanta and another in Los Angeles. Next, they will add the Twin City State, Minnesota, and the Sunshine State’s, Miami, pending a finalized stadium plan in 2018.

“I think it’s good and generating new forms of revenues is good but at the same time, I think it could water down (the) league for having more teams if they’re not good right way,” Burke said. “I think it could be good for the product and those communities that are getting Major League Soccer teams. It can grow the sport.”

However, Duber Smith took another approach.

“You have to be careful to not expand too quickly but the owners have deep pockets, so I think they could lose money for a while,” Duber-Smith said. “What’s good is that they are taking teams that already exist in minor leagues. So what happens is these teams prove themselves at the lower level before they are move up and I think that’s the way in Europe and they regulate them.”

In a recent press release, ‘Major League Soccer Awards Expansion Team to Minnesota,’ Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber spoke how excited he and the league are to being able to land Minnesota.

“We are proud to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer,” he said. The ownership group’s commitment to soccer and the community, the area’s growing millennial population and the region’s rich tradition of supporting soccer at all levels in Minnesota were key indicators that this was the right market, The passionate soccer fans in Minnesota will soon have a world-class, downtown soccer stadium that will serve as the home for the new MLS team and become a destination for marquee international sports events.”

When determining where expansion franchises should be placed, MLS has four criteria. First, owners who are committed to MLS and have the financial ability to invest in a team. Second, a stadium or approved plans for a stadium, preferably a soccer-specific stadium, which allows the team to control revenue streams such as parking and concessions. Third, the size of the market of the metropolitan area. Fourth, an established local fan base.

However, Burke said he believes this could help, MLS needs to do more.

“They still need more talent, he said. It’s in Europe and in Mexico, so it could help but they still need the talent and top-notch players to come to the U.S.” It is true that the league hasn’t had a major player since David Beckham or Ladon Donavan take the pitch, but slowly, MLS is gaining more talent.

Duber-Smith said he believes the talent won’t come to the MLS because of salary.

“For players, it comes down to money, because right now we are kind of paying Canadian football salaries and they are getting NFL salaries in Europe. So the money would have to be there attract a player in his 20s or prime to come here, but we will get plenty of players on their downward slope of their career.”

Today, L.A. Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez, Orlando City SC’s Brek Shea and Ricardo Kaká, New York FC’s Frank Lampard and David Villa help with that, while other European soccer stars want to make the jump to America to begin their MLS life. This makes for a wild trend as Fútbol Americano takes shape as they try to become one of top Ligas de Fútbol.

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About Dylan Palm-Trujillo

Dylan Palm-Trujillo is a Freelance Writer/Photographer for the Metropolitan and Metro Post -Telegraph. He has had work published by Westword Denver and Johnstown Breeze while being a student at Metro. Moreover, he has done a PR internship as well as a reporting Internship. Further, he is a Metro State Student currently studying Convergent Journalism and expects to graduate in the fall of 2015.

View all posts by Dylan Palm-Trujillo

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