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 eveything American Soccer has been through from the 1910’s till today.
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.