As MLS prepares to begin its first season with 18 clubs, the recent talk on the Internet has focused on its possible 20th team. Recent talk on this site has centered on Don Garber traveling to Miami to meet with Miami soccer fans; if you have not read The Gaffer’s article on the meeting then definitely check it out.
But Miami will be in a tough race for that 20th slot, as one familiar name and one new name seem to be their biggest competition.
The famed New York Cosmos, who have been maintaining operations in the hope of becoming an MLS franchise in 2012, made news this week by hiring a familiar name as its associated director of soccer – former U.S. national Cobi Jones. As Jeremiah Oshan notes, this looks to be a serious move at making the jump to a top-flight professional team unlike many of their rumored moves. Currently the owner of a uniform and development academies, the “team” still has a way to go before it is ready for MLS play, but with the names it is gathering it could only be a matter of time before Don Graber announces it as the next expansion team.
But the Cosmos may be squeezed out by a new contender whose infrastructure suggests it is ready to make the jump to MLS. San Antonio’s new NASL team unveiled its new name and plans for its own stadium with the stated goal of entering MLS…. by 2012. San Antonio Scorpions FC will play in the 5,400 seat STAR complex which will have the ability to expand to 18,000 if the call-up is made for the club.
Of course there are other NASL, USL PRO, and imagined clubs that are yearning for MLS status, but these three markets seem the most viable right now for expansion. All three also have their pros and cons. Miami is a huge media market with a long soccer history, but that history includes one failed MLS franchise so far. The Cosmos have the name and the history, as well as the country’s largest media market, but would also share their city with an established MLS franchise. Plus, the Cosmos have an affiliation with the old NASL, a time in history that MLS would probably not like to relive. San Antonio is another market that demographically and geographically makes sense for MLS; the soccer supporters group the “Crocketteers” numbers in the hundreds without a club to support. However, in addition to the Scorpions the ownership group of the San Antonio Spurs is establishing their own USL Pro franchise with plans to move up to MLS eventually.
What city do you think will get the 20th franchise and why? Answer in the comments and in the poll.
Update: RSL Soapbox has some intriguing option for expansion as well.