Sentimental Favorite St Louis Launches MLS Bid


The traditional home of Football Americana style has submitted a big to join Major League Soccer. Jeff Cooper a St Louis area lawyer who for years now has been pushing for MLS to come to the traditional home of the game in the United States submitted a big to join the league today. Given the sentiment involved I wish St Louis the best of luck. If any town has represented the history of this game and the brilliance of what we achieved without the spotlight of an interested media or public, it is St Louis. A franchise in St Louis would embody everything American Soccer has been through from the 1910’s till today. (Photo and article link courtesy of MLS Rumors)

However, St Louis is one of the smallest metropolitan areas applying for a new MLS team. Miami is at the top of the list and of course has its own soccer history. However questions about Miami linger because of the failure of the Fusion. However that failure had more to do with bad management than a bad market. Atlanta is also a massive metropolitan area, but the Atlanta Chiefs of the NASL was one of the least supported clubs in the league and despite significant investment in the stadium, the USL’s Atlanta Silverbacks lag behind such small market teams as Charleston and Rochester in attendance.

Here are the applicants for MLS expansion based on metro area population (2005 population)

Note: I do not use US Census Bureau numbers because they consistently change their criteria classification for metropolitan areas. These estimated numbers are from the Economist’s Intelligence Unit

1- Miami           5,420,000

2- Atlanta         4,160,000

3- Montreal       3,360,000

4- Vancouver    2,900,000

5- St Louis        2, 560,000

6- Portland        2,150,000

7- Las Vegas     1,850,000

Miami is the largest market in North America without an MLS team or expansion team (Philadelphia). However the previous failure of the league in south Florida has clouded the thinking of many pundits towards the area. I have my own thoughts on the subject that we’ll discuss at a later date, but I believe the Fusion was the worst run team in a poorly run league and that explains the failure in such a large market which is heavily ethnic as well. I was at today’s press event with FC Barcelona and the indication we were given was that Miami would like to begin play in 2010 not in 2011 as the other applicants desire. How this factors into the decision making is anyone’s guess but I do not see it hurting Miami.

Montreal is an interesting candidate. My sources had indicated the Saputo’s who run the USL Impact were souring on MLS due the $40 million franchise fee and the the success of the club in the CONCACAF Champions League. However, by submitting a bid, Montreal puts into serious jeopardy the plans USL-1 and Umbro (now owned by Nike) had for building the league. I had been told by a reliable source, that if USL was really getting some major investment, that Montreal would not bid and allow Vanocuver to become uncontested as the second Canadian MLS side.

More later on this subject.

26 thoughts on “Sentimental Favorite St Louis Launches MLS Bid”

  1. (I posted this at your CSRN site as well but it has to get out there…….you totally snubbed or forgot NYC)

    You forgot New York and yes the two biggest areas get the two teams.

    New York and Miami.

    Miami is a shoo in.

    As you mention the league realizes that the Fusion failed because of bad managment not a bad market.

    They were waiting on an investor to show up there and would be a shoo in.

    This Bolivian guy has answered the call.

    New York is getting a team for the city because the Red Bulls are a Jersey team that gets none of the ethnic fans in the city or long island. This is similar to Miami, whose previous team played outside the ethnic areas. The new team will be in Miami.

    It’s a done deal unless MLS adds four teams.

    New York and Miami.

  2. Miami and NYC 2 are done deals for 17 and 18.

    The real question is if MLS expands to 20, which of the other cities have a chance? I say Portland first, Vancouver second. Relocate KC to St Louis, That's your 20 team league and let the other markets settle for USL.

  3. Well Jeff, NYC2 will have to pull off some extra magic to be part of the done deal, since they aren't bidding this round.

    St. Louis would be great, but I'm not sold on their ownership yet. KC's ownership prevents a move unless they're stadium falls through.

    MLS isn't stopping at 20. It's not an issue for at least 5 years but ultimately MLS will creep towards 30 teams just the “big 4”.

  4. NY did not bid.

    Miami is a clear front runner, but the questions about Miami will continue to dog the bid. We'll discuss this on the MLS Talk podcast this week.

    Montreal's bid is very bad news for USL. In the next few days I'll post my thoughts on the future of USL should Vancouver, Atlanta, Miami, Montreal and Portland all end up as MLs markets in the next 5-7 years.

  5. USL is doomed to being the second tier league (which isn't a bad thing) since even the new clubs coming into USL (ie, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and the new Pachuca club in Arizona) are obviously angling their USL franchises as a stepping stone towards getting into MLS later on.

    Unless soccer becomes a lot more popular and MLS stops growing and thus there is a pent up demand for soccer in markets MLS is not serving (this is unlikely in the near future), I don't see USL becoming the “AFL” to MLS's “NFL”.

    “However questions about Miami linger because of the failure of the Fusion. However that failure had more to do with bad management than a bad market.”

    Boy is that ever true. Due to the MLS contraction of 2002 it has become commonly accepted “wisdom” that there's something wrong with Tampa and Miami, that pro soccer doesn't work in Florida, “they tried it and it failed”, yada yada yada. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Due to the size of the Miami market, and the solidity of the FC Barcelona reputation, I think Miami is almost certain to get an expansion team. My second favorite would be St. Louis; sure they are a small market but they have been at this MLS expansion bidding process for a long time now and I have a hunch that they've gotten it right this time. St. Louis will be a good addition to MLS for geographical and historical reasons; my only minor quibble is the location of the stadium is not ideal (urban stadia are preferable, usually), but that may not be an issue.

  6. It would seem to me that the success of TFC would make a Canadian bid very attractive to the MLS. With the backing of Barcelona Miami has to be considered a lock. While I would love to see a St. Louis team as a local rival to my Chicago Fire it's not yet time for the area to host a MLS squad. Another plus about Canada and Miami is that during the summer there is little other sport interest going on in those towns. The NHL is in the off-season and MLB in Miami, really all of Florida is of little interest to the average fan. Perfect ground for the MLS to grow.

  7. I heard Ottawa, Canada, not Las Vegas. Not a fan of either bid.

    Personally, I'm still stumping for Montreal and Vancouver (regardless of the rumour that MTL isn't that interested after all.

    Both have dedicated Soccer Specific Stadia, either now or imminently,
    both have rich, successful soccer histories (and present situations, for that matter)
    both are in a good position to make a quick transition to MLS and be instantly useful sides.

    ALL of the candidates, with the exception of Ottawa, are in similar-sized urban markets (13 -33 in NA – OTT is 67th. Columbus is 203, BTW.)

    If Miami has Barcelona's endorsement, they can write their own ticket. Even though they've blown a chance already and their weather could wreak havoc on either the schedule or quality of play.

    St. Louis is a heartland football location, which made me even more surprised when I was there last summer and couldn't find a game. No pro clubs? Maybe even a PDL side?

    Altanta is a sh**hole. The less said about the place, the better.

    Portland is beautiful, has a football history, and a natural rivalry with Seattle. If they can get some of that's town's massive money (and a SSS) on side, they could jump to the top of the queue.

    Ottawa is a mistake. it's a Bureaucrat's city, not a fan's city. Despite all that government cash, it won't draw fans.

    My preferred order:
    St. Louis

    The other two don't even deserve 6th or 7th place, they're so low on my list.


  8. What amazes me it that we now casually refer to MLS as a “North American” league. Equally amazing is the idea that the next round of expansion will be a Canadian city plus the best US bid, as if Canada is owed another MLS team. If another Canadian team is selected, I don't want to hear anyone refer to Toronto as “our Monaco.” Toronto was allowed to participate in MLS by the USSF because it was argued that Canada couldn't support its own league. Yet Canadian cities now line up to be part of MLS and American cities are deemed insufficiently cosmopolitan.

  9. I agree with Joey. In fact I am under the impression MLS has to secure a waiver from FIFA to add Toronto. USL is not a FIFA sanctioned first division so they have unlimited dispensation and thus added a Bermuda club recently.

    I do not believe MLS can add another Canadian club without some serious politicing which may include limiting the number of teams in the league at 18, something we know MLS probably cannot financially afford.

  10. Why would you need more politicking? The precedent is set. As for “casually referring to it as a “North American” league- well, it is. It's not a national league. But confusion over titles has always been an issue in North america, where we:
    * have a National Hockey League that always was international,
    *used to have an International Hockey League that never stepped foot outside the United states,
    * Have an American Hockey League that hosted Canadian teams for over 50 years, and continues to do so,
    *Have a professional baseball set up where the first league to go international was the “National League”, and the only one that remains international is the “American League”
    * Have a “National” Basketball Association that hosts teams in another country.
    * the major three sports declare their winners “world champions” despite the fact there are other leagues worldwide.

    So, it appears that the REAL reason why some people have a problem with the term “North American league” is due to the fact that we're used to ill-fitting language to describe our leagues over here. When someone actually gets it right, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Quite frankly, with the exception of Ottawa, the Canadian cities that have thrown their hat in the ring are proven football communities with proven, stable ownership and soccer specific, self-regulated stadia. What American franchise bid can claim the same? Why wouldn't MLS appreciate those qualities when it comes time to pick new franchises for a very fragile league? Can MLS afford to make a mistake and suffer another contraction or relocation? The NHL is pumping money hand over fist to misplaced franchises in order to keep them where they are because relocation reflects poorly on the entire entity; contraction looks totally bush league.

    Truth be told, the NHL can't afford to keep doing this. The MLS can't afford to even start doing it.

    Canada can't support a league. Three clubs in MLS is no proof that they could make their own league to play in. If anything, it proves the contrary. MLS and Canada are a very good fit. Why deny it?


  11. What the MLS needs to have happen over the next 5-10 years is include the USL into their plans to create a tiered system of soccer in the US with 1-2 teams up for relegation each year. The US pro sports system is not set up this way, but the rest of the world decides the fate of a team not strong enough to move down to the lower league until they prove worthy to move up. I would have thought in the past this would not be possible since there is a huge difference from playing in Charleston to playing in Chicago, but the USL has shown and will continue to show that they are developing small consistent fan support which may help this become a reality long down the road. Just look at Seattle Sounders (move up to MLS in 09) and now the list of possible expansion cities for the MLS Vancouver, Montreal, Portland, all have strong USL teams/support. Maybe the MLS in the future will allow expasion to begin at the USL level until a stadium is built to the standards of the league, financials are strong enough, etc.

  12. Each Canadian team would require permission from the USSF; its approval of Toronto was limited to Toronto. MLS will tell every voter to approve Canadian expansion or risk being ostracized. Nice, huh? And this is soccer we're talking about. It's not the NHL. MLS baited and switched, corrupted the approval process and has driven up the cost of entry to the league for smaller American cities by allowing groups from Canada to bid up. The whole situation is deplorable. American cities will go without. Meanwhile, Canada is stuck with a lousy three teams in a league over which its own federation has no control. It's a mess. The USSF – who, by the way, approved Toronto after what it calls “some discussion” – should at least ask the tough questions this time around. But, you know what? If MLS selects any of the Canadian cities it will be because they've already received the wink and nod from USSF. Such transparency. And if so many cities are interested, why is MLS even considering Canadian cities? It's a joke.

  13. It's not about hockey (I know) but it's really not about soccer for that matter – its an issue of professional sports in Canada. And they don't fly on their own in this country.

    Maybe MLS looks long and hard at Canadian cities because, as I've pointed out before, the Canadian cities in question are excellent candidates. If smaller areas can't compete with entering the league, how are they supposed to contribute to the overall health of the league once they're in?

    If St. Louis can get a big company like Anheuser Busch, or Atlanta gets Coca-Cola behind them and promise a SSS, they will jump well up the queue, just like Miami will if these Barcelona rumours are true. Like all sports these days (especially these days, with economic instability what it is,) soccer is not the domain of the millionaires. it's the domain of the billionaires. Ironically, is this “bait and switch” price escalation that is pushing former “sure things” like Montreal away from the negotiating table. and actually opening the door a little more for places like St. Louis and Atlanta.

    ***The CSA not having control over a league is not a bad thing at all! I don't see the benefits in that regard.

    As it stands, TFC on its own, has:
    * put together an academy to develop youth players to a professional level,
    *generated fan interest and a logical conclusion for any serious player to aspire to in the Greater Toronto Area,
    *generated funds for local football programs (indirectly as much as directly, granted), *found big league ownership to make it happen properly, and
    *has proven that soccer is a legitimate sport this neck of the woods, with 20K fans at every home game.

    All in under 2 years Those are three things the CSA hasn't come close to doing in 95 year of existence.

    Back in the early 90's the CSA was offered a proposal which, for their part, all they had to do was raise youth soccer fees by 1$ per kid across the country to ensure the survival of the CSL. They refused and killed it in the process.

    Who wants the CSA in the equation?


  14. I'm not questioning the viability or the integrity of the Canadian teams. I'm merely saying that they have no place in our league; it remains OUR league as long is it is overseen soley by the USSF. Toronto is a team to admire ( I refuse to use the term “franchise”)…to a degree. Its fans are committed and colorful. The team on the field will improve. But ultimately it does nothing for Canadian soccer, occupies a spot into which a US team could easily fit, and sets a terrible, a disgraceful precedent. Could you imagine if the LA Galaxy decided that MLS wasn't sufficiently big time or that MLS could only become SO big and then decided to play in the Mexican league? Anyway, I couldn't care less how sound the proposals are from Canadian groups. It's not about that. MLS is an American league. It should have only American teams.

  15. I was against TFC's entry into MLS which is a designated FIFA sanctioned first division for the UNITED STATES, not NORTH AMERICA, and remain against expansion to Canada. USL has done well in Canada but I know from a very good source that USL was asked by the USSF to not replace the Lynx with another Canadian franchise when TFC went to MLS and the Lynx dropped out of USL. USL instead is expanding to Austin, Phoenix and Tampa. My source tells me Marcos has been told by the USSF to not replace Vancouver or Montreal either if they bump up to MLS. This could mean that the USSF is willing to allow those teams to enter MLS if expansion stop there. So basically the Ottawa application could be rejected by the USSF, and I believe they will not be able to join USL either.

    The precedent of allowing TFC into MLS opened a can of worms that cannot be put back in place.

  16. JOEY, ERIC, You two seem to forget a simple fact:

    TFC is the model franchise of MLS. As much as you two curmudgeons abhor anything not American, the Seattle boys made it clear that they're taking as many pages out of TFC's playbook as they can.

    It appears that everyone with a penny in the game sees the Canadian MLS entity model as teh key to survival and success in the US sports market.

    the Lynx are in the PDL now. Even without a bigger fish in town, they couldn't draw flies to shit. It made no sense to put another team in a market that wasn't yielding for the USL in the first place. Besides, why would USL want to go head to head with a league that is officially labelled as superior?

    AS for Eric's hypothetical question about the Gals leaving for the Mexican league, it totally misses the mark. Toronto's USL club was already in an international league. The Lynx NEVER existed in a world where they only played Canadian clubs. As a matter of fact, the history of top tier professional soccer in Toronto has only a small time frame when American opposition weren't part of their picture . Toronto football fans traded tier two American teams for Tier one American teams. the Galaxy hypothesis is completely flawed.

    Canadian clubs are cornerstones of the top two tiers of football in this part of the world. You've had the better part of 40 years to come to grips with this.

  17. Bishop, TFC could be the model team for the world. It makes no difference. It's a Canadian team. It should play in a Canadian league. And, whether you like it or not, future Canadian teams will need USSF approval. If St. Louis or a Southern city is overlooked in favor of Canadian cities, thinks could get ugly.

  18. Barca Miami is a lock.

    I believe the other cities considered will likely all be Canadian. Portland needs to come up with money to renovate/expand PGE, and St Louis could be a victim of these rough economic times.

    Face it: MLS is only around because of Mexican and Canadian interests. Mexican national team friendlies and FMF vs MLS games generate a lot more revenue for the league than just about anything. Now TFC is the model franchise not only drawing big crowds but setting up a youth academy, playing in the central city, attracting the type of players from England that would typically scoff at MLS and simply being a better more talented team despite the restrictions MLS places on the team since they are Canadian. Had TFC not been essentially robbed of 5 points in two games against Dallas, TFC is a lock for the playoffs right now.

  19. Larry says…

    “Face it: MLS is only around because of Mexican and Canadian interests.”

    I refuse to look at top tier soccer in my country with such pessimism and with such little pride.

  20. Miami in for sure (not sure how I feel about it, but i'm optimistic)

    I can't really see another american team getting a bid this time, no matter how people feel about it. Montreal and Vancouver have too much upside, with Montreal beating them out for the second bid because of their proximity Toronto and being better equipped than Vancouver. Too bad if that happens though. Being a Seattle fan, I don't want to see Vancouver and Portland both get snubbed. But such is life.

  21. Which town has fans who support professional sports in bad years as well as winning years? St Louis does. Which town has companies (plural) which for civic duty as well as business reasons support sports teams, and I mean long term support over decades. St Louis does. Which town is the most likely to persevere and get through the difficult years? How a town measures up to these questions is what MLS officials will want to know.

  22. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you

    wrote the book in it or something. I think

    that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit,

    but other than that, this is excellent blog. A fantastic read.

    I’ll definitely be back.

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