NASL, USL, MLS & CanPL Expansion News & Rumors Tracker – October 2016 Edition

League expansion news and rumors pop up regularly and it is hard to keep track of who said what, where and when. Midfield Press has created the Expansion News & Rumor Tracker as a monthly installment following the word on the web about possible future North American Soccer League clubs.  As bonus content, we also provide rumors on United Soccer League expansion, Major League Soccer expansion and the proposed Canadian Premier League since much of that information comes up during our research.  You can find the league expansion rumors below in that order, with the logos indicating the start of that league’s section.

September was a month filled with drama and rumors around the fate of lower division soccer in the US.  As the USSF met to reportedly consider the divisional status of NASL and USL, the Tampa Bay Rowdies were rumored to be the next team jumping off the NASL ship.  Ultimately the federation did not make a decision to change the status of any leagues at this time.  

Meanwhile NASL owners gathered in late September to discuss the league’s direction and how to set it up for a more prosperous future.  Jacksonville owner Mark Frisch clarified on Twitter that this was not a traditional Board of Governors meeting.  Bill Peterson described the purpose of the summit as focusing on alignment around the league’s long term strategy. “The discussions were both positive and productive, and many of the agenda items were largely focused on the league’s long-term vision,” Peterson told Sports Illustrated. “It was exciting to see owners emphasizing their commitment towards ensuring that the NASL continues to develop.”

San Francisco Deltas owner Brian Andrés Helmick provided a little more color into the NASL summit to SF Gate.  “This wasn’t a meeting to make decisions that are tactical,” Helmick explained. “It was a meeting to make sure that we came together.”

The meeting, which was planned since June, included consultants who have worked with Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Google and Facebook.  “There was this level of transparency, dialogue, humility, and collaboration that I had not seen before,” Helmick remarked.

“We’re in a period of change and change is hard. Not everyone can deal with that change. However, we have a strong core group of owners, and there is a ton of potential. Expect to see differences in how we’re going to be operating in the future.”  SF Gate identified the New York Cosmos, Carolina Railhawks, Miami FC and Indy Eleven as the core ownership groups to which Helmick referred.

Helmick also suggested there is a strategic shift in the NASL’s approach to working with the USSF, MLS and USL.  “I hope that someday when people are studying the history of the NASL,” Helmick stated, “they will look back at this period as a turning point.”

 

North_American_Soccer_League_(NASL).svg

NASL continues to move forward with expansion prospects while it faces the exit of up to three teams (Minnesota, Ottawa and Tampa Bay) before the 2017 season.  Rumors out of the league summit suggested as many as 3-6 groups are looking to join the league. Chicago (2018) would be one of those, and Midfield Press has been in touch with NASL expansion groups in Los Angeles (2017) and San Diego (2018).

“We’ve never had more serious conversations happening than we do right now, in more cities than we do right now,” Peterson told Sports Illustrated. “We’ve probably been in a process with maybe 40 groups. These are all people that have the wherewithal to do it. You start down through the process, depending on the group, depending on the city, can take as little as three to four months or as long as 18 months to complete.”

He continued, “We’re talking to potential owners on the west coast—three different cities. Some are more advanced than others. All of them have a chance of getting admitted. We still have two conversations on the East Coast—they’re not in Florida—which if they make sense you would want to do it.”

“We had three new teams start this year. I don’t know if we’ll have new teams [beyond San Francisco] start next year, and the clock’s ticking. But we’ll have ownership groups added to the league. I’m very confident of that. And it could be three or four,” Peterson said. “I think our league, I hope it’s beyond the point of anybody doubting if it’s going to be in existence. I think the model’s demonstrated that it can be successful if you work hard at it, passionate and in the right cities.”

In a subsequent Sports Illustrated piece, Peterson stated that the league has meetings with expansion groups lined up in the coming weeks.  “Over the course of the next few weeks, the league has several meetings scheduled with potential investment groups that are looking at a number of intriguing markets,” Peterson said. “While we like to keep the expansion process private, I can confirm that we have continued to receive tremendous interest from investors located in both North America and also throughout the world.”

Chicago NASL CEO Peter Wilt provided his perspective on future NASL expansion when asked what the best case scenario for NASL is by 2020 by the Flakoglost Podcast, “I think 20 teams by 2020 is realistic.  Working with Club 9 Sports, I see a number of discussions going on regarding expansion markets and a lot of those conversations are beneath the radar.  I applaud the NASL for keeping those conversations low key.  It is easy to talk publicly about markets specifically and it does you no good in the long run.  There is significant interest in the league. It does provide something different and aspirational that maybe the other leagues don’t.  I think there’s a very good chance that the NASL will get to 20 by 2020.”

Regarding the league’s tight-lipped approach to potential expansion cities (the very inspiration for this monthly expansion tracker!) compared to MLS, Wilt said, “Bill Peterson should take great credit for that.  There has been some pressure whenever there has been interest from investors that are kicking the tires to go public with it right away. He’s been very good at saying no – let’s go down the road with them and vet them and let them vet us and make sure there is a good fit without getting people’s hopes up.  I think the league has made a conscious effort at this, and a wise one.”

With apologies to Bill and Peter, we are going to keep on tracking these expansion rumors!

 

Announced NASL Teams

San Francisco Deltas

sfdeltas-fb

Summary: Led by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Brian Andres Helmick, the San Francisco Deltas will debut in the 2017 Spring Season, playing out of Kezar Stadium.  The club will invest several hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements at stadium.  The Deltas have started to collect season ticket deposits on their web site.  

Marc Dos Santos, who led the Ottawa Fury to the Soccer Bowl last year, will be their first head coach. Dos Santos is an exciting choice not only because he had success with Ottawa, but because he has the experience of building that club from the ground up in 2014, and taking them to the title game the following season.  

“It’s not always easy to build a team from scratch when you don’t have one player on your list. There is no history of the club. There is nothing; you’re starting from zero,” Dos Santos told SF Gate, describing plans for San Francisco’s playing style to be aggressive, fast in transition, and quick going to goal. “You only recruit well if you have a very clear idea on the style you want to play and then it becomes easier. It’s important to mix the players you want to develop with experience. You don’t develop good players if they are not around experienced players that could help them.”

The Deltas demonstrated remarkable fan engagement with their contest to let season ticket holders vote on the club’s first home kit.

October 2016 Update:  In keeping with their promise to use technology in ways that improve the fan experience, the Deltas announced a ticketing partnership with Eventbrite that will offer some unique ways for fans to select their seats.  One of these options will be to sit with others that share your interests.   The Deltas’ Director of Product Management, Bryant Harrison, told SFgate, “I believe flexible seating will create a fun experience for fans that will change from game to game. For example, for one game, a fan could sit with fellow supporters of their favorite European soccer club, and at another match, a family could sit amongst other families of fans with children of similar ages.”

More on the San Francisco Deltas:  http://sfdeltas.com/ and Midfield Press’ interview with Helmick.

 

Potential 2017 NASL footprint based on current rumors

Potential 2017 NASL footprint based on current rumors

 

Public NASL Efforts

Chicago

chicago-nasl

Summary: Peter Wilt and Club 9 Sports are working to bring an NASL team to Chicago.  Chicago NASL has identified Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field as its ideal places to play.   The team solicited fan suggestions for its official name and colors on its web site, and they will narrow down the finalists and allow fans to vote on the name.  The classic NASL moniker Chicago Sting is likely to be one of the options, having received a plurality of votes in the initial survey.  Other fan suggestions included Chicago City SC, Municipal Chicago and Wild Onion FC.  

Peter Wilt provided a status update in June to fans on the Big Soccer forums.  When a poster stated that things were not looking likely for 2017 at this rate, Wilt replied, “Yeah….not for Spring season….and i’d prefer not going with a Fall launch if possible, which means Spring, 2018 is more likely. Lack of a venue agreement is causing the delay.”  

According to the Chicago NASL Twitter account, we won’t know more on its venue progress until November.  Hanson Park can be ruled out as a potential venue to rival the club’s first choices of Soldier Field, Wrigley Field and US Cellular Park, as the Chicago NASL account replied to a fan suggestion of Hanson that it is not a fit: “Board of Education facility, can not sell beer. Lacks amenities and professionalism.”

Peter Wilt also tweeted: “We’re making good progress on investors, Supporters Trust & grassroots efforts, but venue process has been slow.”

October 2016 Update:  

Peter Wilt shed light on Chicago NASL’s progress in a great interview with the Flakoglost Podcast.  Wilt said, “We have got the investors lined up.  We are in a holding pattern on the venue situation.  There’s a few venues in town that meet the criteria we’ve established, which are essentially major league facilities that can hold five figures plus.  That limits you to three venues: where the White Sox, Cubs and Bears play.  And those aren’t the easiest venues to secure.  We have not given up, which means there is opportunity with one or more of them.  I can’t really go into specifics about it.  We believe that come November, we will be reengaged in some of those talks, and on course for a 2018 launch.”

Wilt also provided an updated the club’s planned supporters trust, which was previously mentioned to potentially own up to 10% of the club: “We have the legal work all done.  We have a supporters trust board of directors in place, 5 persons.  They have met regularly, about once a month. We give them updates.  We are very transparent with them.  The concept is to sell eventually 3000 shares at $500 a piece plus a season ticket.  Those folks would get a vote in who [the supporters trust’s] five board representatives are, and one of those five will be a representative on the team’s board, and they’d have a full vote on everything we do.  They would have transparency into our business and they would have actually more than 1/7th vote on certain issues that are critical to fans.  For example, maybe changing the team colors or changing the team’s name… something like that would have to be approved by the supporters trust board. So it’s exciting.  I love that idea, because it engages the fans.  Not only those 3000 shareholders that become vested in the team, but really all fans of the team become vested because they’ll have a sense that this is the people’s team and it belongs to the community.”

More on Chicago NASL:  http://www.chicagonasl.com/, Peter Wilt’s February 2016 AMA and Midfield Press’ interview with Peter Wilt.

 

Philadelphia Fury

PhiladelphiaFury

Summary: Jonathan Tannenwald broke the story that the owner of the American Soccer League’s Philadelphia Fury, which plays in the South Jersey suburb Glassboro, is looking to partner with investors to bring a NASL team to the Philadelphia market.   The Philadelphia Fury is a classic NASL brand. Potential investors were reported to include a La Liga club as well as parties from Dubai and Las Vegas.  SD Eibar’s friendly against the Fury at Rowan University was said to be related to these efforts.  

October 2016 Update:  Midfield Press connected with Philadelphia Fury owner Matt Driver for an interview updating the status of the club’s NASL ambitions.  Driver continues to work on getting investors for a NASL move but there is currently not investment in place.  He is working with Jack Cummins and Club 9 Sports, of the Chicago NASL bid, as consultants to help him with his NASL plan.  

Driver understands that playing in a stadium in Philadelphia or close to the city, such as Campbell’s Field in Camden, would be critical to the success of a Philadelphia NASL team.  In terms  of his own role in the NASL club, Driver sees himself as a potential Sporting Director while leaving the business operations to other partners.  He sees the American Soccer League, which he runs today, as a potential talent feeder for the Philadelphia Fury.

More on Philadelphia Fury:  http://furyasl.com/  

 

NASL Rumors With Multiple Sources and/or League Commentary

San Diego  

San Diego's three historic NASL teams

San Diego’s three historic NASL teams

San Diego is one of the markets that NASL is discussing with interested potential ownership groups, according to Empire of Soccer’s January 21, 2016 article  on Bill Peterson.  San Diego is also the subject of MLS expansion rumors, with former San Diego Padres owner John Moores, and current owner Peter Seidler, separately linked with MLS bids.   San Diego has also been the subject of USL rumors, with NBC San Diego reporting that a group is close to securing a USL team for 2017 to play out of Torero Stadium.

October 2016 Update:  Midfield Press has been in contact with a group looking to bring a NASL franchise to San Diego for the Spring 2018 season.  This is the same group that was reported by NBC earlier this year as aiming to join USL in 2017.  

 

Atlanta

atlanta-chiefs

Summary: Bill Peterson confirmed in a Big Apple Soccer report that the league is in discussions with two groups in Atlanta, despite the recent demise of the NASL Silverbacks and the impending launch of MLS’s Atlanta United FC. “We have two groups interested in Atlanta,” said Peterson. “They are trying to develop a game plan and build on what occurred the last several years.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a NASL team may be coming to DeKalb County, just east of Atlanta.  A group is looking at building a soccer complex that would host both a NWSL team, referred to as the Atlanta Vibe, and a NASL team, referred to as the Atlanta Chiefs.  While the Chiefs brand is from the classic NASL era, its use is inadvisable in a contemporary context.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

 

Las Vegas

NASL 1.0 featured the Las Vegas Quicksilvers

NASL 1.0 featured the Las Vegas Quicksilvers

Empire of Soccer reported in their January 21, 2016 piece on Bill Peterson that several sources are telling them that Las Vegas  is one of the markets that NASL is discussing with interested potential ownership groups.  A later EoS article dated January 27, 2016 includes a comment from Bill Peterson that an attempt to move the Scorpions brand to Las Vegas  this past offseason was rejected by the NASL Board of Governors:  “All the pieces weren’t in place,” he said.  Since these comment appears to be from the same interview, it would seem Las Vegas is still in play but the Scorpions brand there may or may not be.  Cosmos Country Podcast previously reported that a Las Vegas investor group was at the Board of Governors meeting in New York prior to the Soccer Bowl.   Recent rumors on Big Soccer from an in the know poster suggest that USL may also be trying to bring a team to Vegas.

The most recent NASL related activity in Las Vegas was the New York Cosmos friendly versus SD Eibar of Spain in Sam Boyd Stadium.  The friendly was sparsely attended, which might call into question the suitability of Sam Boyd as a NASL venue.

October 2016 Update: Nothing new.

 

Orange County

The Surf played in Anaheim in the classic NASL

The Surf played in Anaheim in the classic NASL

Summary:  After months of rumors that the musician Sting was looking to bring NASL to Orange County, it turned out that Joe Sumner, Sting’s son, is part of a group exploring putting a NASL team in Orange County.  Scratching the Pitch reported that Sumner ended his NASL bid in part due to costs associated with a potential lawsuit with USSF, which has since been discontinued.

October 2016 Update:  Last month Midfield Press was able to get in touch with Joe Sumner, who described his NASL interest as “purely exploratory at the present moment.”  This indicates that the project is not dead, but also not close to happening.

 

Single Source NASL Rumors

Los Angeles

Los_Angeles_Skyline

LA could give NASL a second west coast team in 2017

Summary: Midfield Press has been in contact with a representative from a Los Angeles group that is in the NASL expansion process, after following a tip from an independent source.  We are not reporting their identity at this time out of respect of the process involved. Per league policy, NASL would neither confirm nor deny that the group was in the process when approached by Midfield Press.  Depending on how the process advances, the group could see debuting as early as Spring/Fall 2017. We hope to share more when the LA group is ready to come forward.

October 2016 Update:  The Los Angeles NASL group aims to start in Spring 2017, but would have to be admitted to the league in the next two months to accomplish this goal.  The group already has many pieces of the puzzle in place, so a 2017 debut would not be rushed.

 

Baltimore

Crystal Palace Baltimore was supposed to join NASL in 2011

Crystal Palace Baltimore was supposed to join NASL in 2011

Summary: In an otherwise grim article about NASL, Sports Illustrated reported that one of the expansion groups looking to join the league is based in Baltimore.

The city has long been on the NASL radar. Baltimore was expected to be part of the new NASL when it began in 2011, but former USL franchise Crystal Palace Baltimore failed after the 2010 season in USSF D2 before it could join the league.  

The league’s sponsorship deal with Baltimore-based Under Armour earlier this year led to speculation that UA founder Kevin Plank might launch a team.  This speculation was fanned by reports of Under Armour’s plans for a new 50-acre campus include a 7,000 seat waterfront stadium.

A Baltimore NASL bid would find itself in a race to market against the potential relocation of the USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads to the metro area.

 

NASL Rumors On Life Support

Celtic USA

Celtic USA rumors are running out of steam

Summary: British tabloid The Sun reported that Celtic FC looked at putting a team in NASL.  Boston, Detroit and Hartford were cities Celtic FC considered according to an in-the-know Big Soccer poster.  Boston may be blocked due to a marketing agreement between Celtic FC and the Boston Celtics.  Celtic Underground recently reported the club executive Peter Lawwell will be traveling back to the USA this summer to re-engage NASL talks. Celtic Underground’s @celticrumours twitter account mentioned hearing talk of Philadelphia and the West Coast as locations the club was eyeing.  

In the wake of the Rayo OKC trouble, many NASL fans would be happy to see the league pass on another colony club expansion.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

 

Detroit

The Detroit Express played in the original NASL

The Detroit Express played in the original NASL

Detroit has come into focus as a target of MLS, with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert teaming on a bid.  In September 2015, a Detroit expansion group presented at the NASL Board of Governors meeting alongside San Francisco and OKC, according to reporter Sulaiman Folarin.  Neither group was connected to Detroit City FC.  

Bill Peterson told the Cosmos Country Podcast in July that there was a Midwest expansion group other than Chicago in the mix.  Detroit is the only other Midwest city to date with any tangible NASL link.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

No Longer Appearing On The NASL Rumors List

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Potential NASL footprint beyond 2018 with expansion rumors included

 

usl

Scratching the Pitch reported that USL expects to have 30 teams competing in 2017, up one from 29 in 2016.  The Wilmington franchise, whose owner is looking into relocation to a bigger market, will be joining Austin on-hiatus for a year.  Reno is the only team officially scheduled to debut in 2017 at this time, however two current NASL clubs, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Ottawa Fury, are said to be planning a move to USL.  If both join that would put USL at 31 teams.

The Rowdies would seem to have the clearer path to joining the Tampa-based United Soccer League, since a move by Ottawa would require sign off from the Canadian federation.  Up to this point, the only Canadian USL teams the federation has approved are the three MLS reserve teams.  With a domestic Canadian league on the horizon, the federation could balk at letting Ottawa switch to USL if it thinks that would jeopardize having the club start off as a flagship franchise in a Canadian Premier League.

 

Announced USL Teams

Reno 1868

reno1868

Summary: Reno 1868 will start play in 2017.  The club is owned by billionaire Herb Simon, who also owns the NBA’s Indiana Pacers.  Sacramento Republic FC recently played a friendly in Reno against the Liverpool FC U-21s before a crowd of 6,287 at 1868’s future home of Greater Nevada Field.  

Reno signed a two-year affiliation agreement with the San Jose Earthquakes.   San Jose will run all aspects of Reno’s soccer operations, making the partnership look more like Houston Dynamo’s arrangement with Rio Grande Valley than a traditional MLS-USL affiliation.  Reno will still handle the business side of its operation.   Former Atlanta Silverbacks GM Andy Smith was hired to run Reno’s soccer operations.

October 2016 Update: Reno 1868 has surpassed 1000 season tickets sold.

More on Reno 1868.

 

Austin Aztex

Austin_Aztex_logo

Summary: Technically not an expansion team, the Austin Aztex are on-hiatus from USL for 2016 due to flood damage to House Park.  Now, the Aztex will sit out the 2017 season after sitting out 2016, and the club does not seem to have made much progress towards getting back on the field.

“There is no suitable stadium. Until there is, the Aztex won’t field a team,” Bobby Epstein, chairman of Circuit of the Americas and a majority investor in the Aztex, told the Austin American-Statesman.

Club owner Rene van de Zande told the Statesman,  “Nothing is formally confirmed, but taking the suitable soccer venue needs into consideration, 2018 has become a more realistic target.”

“I want Austin to have pro soccer,” Epstein said. “If there was a stadium, the Aztex would be playing now.”  The Statesman reports that the club found University of Texas’ Myers Stadium too expensive, while they have also ruled out playing in high school football stadiums because they wouldn’t be able to generate revenues from alcohol sales.  The paper reports that there has not been progress on the offer extended by the Austin Huns rugby club to share a stadium with the Aztex.

“I’m probably out of the stadium-building business,” Epstein said. “We’ll keep looking for long-term solutions.”

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

More on the Austin Aztex.

 

Nashville SC

Nashville USL's new logo

Nashville USL’s new logo

Summary: DMD Soccer has been awarded a USL franchise for 2018 contingent on acquiring a soccer-specific stadium.  The DMD group includes investors with ties to health care companies including Marcus Whitney, former chairman of Nashville FC of NPSL, David Dell president and COO of LifePoint Health and Christopher Redhage, co-founder of ProviderTrust.  Chris Jones will serve as the GM of the Nashville USL club.  Nashville SC has surpassed 1500 season ticket deposits.

A potential soccer war for Nashville was over before it ever really began, with Bill Hagerty, the former head of the Nashville NASL group, re-focusing his efforts on bringing Major League Soccer to the Music City.

October 2016 Update:  The Nashville USL group decided against using the Nashville FC brand as originally intended, opting to use a new name and logo, Nashville SC.  Previously it was reported that they acquired the brand of NPSL team Nashville FC in exchange for a 1% stake in the club and a seat on the club’s board.  However, since there could be a potential trademark conflict with a local youth soccer organization that also uses the Nashville FC name, the USL group chose this other direction.  

DMD intends to create a similar investment model for members of the NPSL Nashville FC club.  “During the August 29 meeting DMD reiterated its desire to provide for formal supporter investment in the USL franchise on the same terms as previously proposed to NFC. In light of the foregoing, the Board of NFC agrees that the most appropriate manner of accomplishing this is through a new nonprofit corporation,” the board of Nashville FC wrote to its members, according to the Nashville Pitch.

Meanwhile, Nashville SC will enter a PDL club next year rather than an NPSL club, which makes sense as PDL is part of the USL system.  The team will be known as Nashville SC U23.

More on Nashville SC.

What USL may look like in 2017 with Ottawa and Tampa Bay

What USL may look like in 2017 with Ottawa and Tampa Bay

 

Rumored USL Teams

Albuquerque:   In an interview with Midfield Press earlier this year, Albuquerque Sol FC set a target of 2018 for a move up to professional soccer.  Albuquerque is more likely to go to USL than NASL due to their status as a PDL team, a league which is owned by USL.  However they would not rule NASL out.

The Albuquerque Sol hired a consultant to do a feasibility analysis on a 5,000 to 10,000 seat stadium in the city. “The goal has always been said 2018 to go what’s called USL pro, which would be the equivalent of say the Isotopes,” said General Manager for Albuquerque Sol, Larry Espinoza, told KRQE.  The club is looking for investors to help fund the stadium.

October 2016 Update: Nothing new.

Baltimore:  The Wilmington Hammerheads supporters group the Port City Firm reported on their Twitter account that Baltimore is the top relocation target for the Hammerheads ownership group.  Finding a good venue in the Baltimore area could be a challenge.  Possibilities include Homewood Field (Johns Hopkins University’s lacrosse stadium) and Ridley Athletic Complex (Loyola University).

October 2016 Update: Steven Goff of the Washington Post dug into the Hammerheads potential move to Baltimore.  Goff reports that the team aims to play at Johnny Unitas Stadium at Towson University.  Names floated for the club include such creative options as FC Baltimore and Baltimore FC.  Goff reports that the University of Maryland Baltimore County was also looked at as a potential venue for the club, but an agreement could not be reached.  That indicates this process is pretty far along.  Goff suggests the league has spoken to investors interested in expanding to Baltimore in addition the the relocation interest from Hammerheads owner George Altirs.

Sports Illustrated also reported that investors are interested in bringing a NASL club to the Charm City.

Birmingham: Scratching The Pitch reported Birmingham, Alabama as a potential USL city along with their own rumors on Nashville and San Diego USL teams.  The site reported that a link between the Birmingham Hammers NPSL team and the USL bid is not evident.

October 2016 Update: Nothing new.  

Boise:  Boise could be the home of a USL team soon, either an independent club or a Portland Timbers affiliate. T2 and Swope Park Rangers played a match in Meridian, Idaho, near Boise, to test the market.

Idaho is considered Timbers “territory” in MLS terms, and the club already has partnerships with youth programs in the state.   Portland executive Gavin Wilkerson shared the club’s plans to develop the Idaho market further with USLsoccer.com:  “We want to look at a way to eventually have more games in Boise and in Idaho and then eventually will the league, will USL, allow us to have another team there? Is it a viable business decision? These are questions that we’ll be asking ourselves. This is definitely a trial match. It has many, many purposes and we’re very happy with the initial response.”

“We’re at the exploratory phase of going down this path,” Wilkinson said. “There’s conversations with the USL. There’s conversations about how we could be involved if we weren’t able to run the USL team in Idaho. What we’re looking at, in all honesty, is we’re exploring all avenues and all options.”

An article on the Idaho Business Review outlined several details of how pro soccer may unfold in Boise.  Bill Taylor is leading a local group of investors who want to bring pro soccer to town.

“We will have serious talks starting in July (with government people and potential investors),” Taylor said. “The energy is legitimized. There is a return on investment now. Now you can go to people who are not necessarily soccer people. Now we just have to go to the next level with our government people.”  

The article goes on to explore several locations in the Boise area where a stadium could be built.  The mayor of Boise, David Bieter, is on board with the idea of a stadium. “Downtown needs a multi-use sports facility,” Bieter said. “I’m convinced that a public private partnership that brings minor league baseball and soccer as well as concerts and other events to downtown will pay great dividends.”

The Timbers remain interested in developing the market.  T2 may host six to eight “home” games in Boise over the 2017 season.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

Cleveland:  Message board rumors should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Cleveland could follow on Cincinnati’s heels in USL, if rumblings from two local area posters (1, 2) on Big Soccer are to be believed.  

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

FC Dallas 2: FC Dallas has been rumored to be interested in starting its own USL squad for a while.  Jason Davis reported that Dallas’s reserve squad may debut in either 2017 or 2018.  Will Parchman reported that Dallas has preliminary plans to put a team in USL in 2018.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

El Paso: MountainStar Sports Group is reportedly working to bring a USL team to El Paso.  MountainStar owns the El Paso Chihuahuas AAA baseball team as well as FC Juarez across the Mexican border.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

Fresno: A Fresno group other than the Fuego PDL club has its eyes on a USL franchise. According to a report from Evan Ream, the Fresno Fuego are being pressured to pay the USL’s expansion fee by the end of the year or the other group will get the rights.

The Fuego have long been interested in moving up to the pro ranks.  “I really think Fresno is ready for professional soccer,” said Scott Alcorn, former coach of PDL Fresno Fuego told the Fresno Bee in July 2015. “It’s something that has never been done in the Valley. Pro soccer would be something that’s totally new, and I think we’re ready for that.”

“The USL has asked us for the last eight years if we want to move up to the next level, but it hasn’t been in our best interest given the economic challenges of 2008 through 2012,” Fuego GM Jeremy Schultz told the Bee. “It wasn’t time for us to make that move. But over the last couple years the Fuego has been profitable, which is a great accomplishment.”

“You look at some of the cities where soccer is flourishing, and I really believe Fresno has the fabric of a soccer town,” Schultz said.

“It’s ingrained in us. We kind of grow up with a little chip on our shoulder how we’re viewed in this state, and I think that mentality is perfectly suited for soccer.”

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

Las Vegas:  The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in March that the USL was interested in bringing a team to Cashman Field in Vegas.  USL spokesperson Brett Lashbrook told the Review-Journal that there was a precedent of minor league baseball and USL sharing a stadium.  The Las Vegas 51s AAA team is looking to move out of Cashman into a new stadium.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

LAFC2:  The Orange County Register reported that LAFC is looking at building a complex in Tustin, California, which would include a 5,000-8,000 seat stadium, a suitable size for a LAFC2 USL squad.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

Ottawa Fury:  The Ottawa Fury are rumored to be considering a switch from the NASL to USL after the 2016 season.  Ottawa is said to be losing $2M per year in NASL and one motivation for the move to USL would be to reduce operating losses due to easier travel with more nearby teams.

October 2016 Update: Steven Sandor reports that the Canadian Soccer Association confirmed to him that they have not received an application from the Ottawa Fury to switch from NASL to USL.  The federation also confirmed to Sandor that it would need to approve such a move.

One thing that could be viewed positively at the CSA regarding an Ottawa switch would be that USL grants domestic status to Canadians who play in the league. This is as opposed to MLS and NASL, where Canadians take up valuable international roster spots, and the policy has led to more Canadian players in USL than MLS and NASL combined.  One thing that could work against a Fury USL move would be the impact that could have on plans for a domestic Canadian league.

San Diego:  NBC San Diego reports that USL is close to awarding a San Diego franchise to start in 2017 playing out of Torero Stadium.  Scratching the Pitch and an in-the-know Big Soccer poster previously reported recent USL’s interest in San Diego.

The idea of a USL team in San Diego received a vote of confidence from Landon Donovan.  “If I can be a part of that, it would be tremendous,” he said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I would love to see this area have a USL (United Soccer League) team or MLS team. This is a crazy soccer market.”

Donovan was previously linked to an ownership role in a San Diego USL team, but then denied those rumors on Twitter.  Donovan also acknowledged discussions with groups that want to bring MLS to San Diego.  The US soccer legend recently acquired a small ownership stake in EPL club Swansea City.

October 2016 Update:  Midfield Press has learned that the group NBC reported on as targeting a 2017 start in USL is now focusing on a Spring 2018 debut in NASL.  

Tacoma:  The Seattle Sounders are exploring the possibility of moving Sounders 2’s home to Tacoma.  The club is working with the AAA baseball Tacoma Rainiers on a plan that would see the B side relocate from Starfire Soccer Complex to a new stadium.

“There’s a group of individuals working on a soccer complex and possibly a soccer stadium,” Hanauer told Sounder at Heart. “The team is a separate issue. We’ve been working with the Rainiers, with whom we would theoretically have some sort of partnership. We haven’t talked about how equity would work. Notionally, we like the Major League Baseball model where we’d run and pay for the technical side and they’d run and pay for the business.”

“We were very curious about what would happen to the soccer market there,” said Hanauer, noting the advantages of getting a little farther away from Seattle. “We did that game down there and I remained in contact with the folks from the Rainiers. We check in every six months or so. I think we concluded at that time that Cheney [Stadium] wasn’t a good long term location, but if there was ever a possibility for a soccer-specific stadium in Tacoma that it would be very interesting.”

The Sounders seem focused on Tacoma, but have also considered moving their 2 side to Boise, Everett and Spokane, according to the Sounder at Heart report.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

Tampa Bay Rowdies:  Sports Illustrated reported that the Tampa Bay Rowdies are looking to move to USL after the 2016 season.  Midfield Press provided more insight what led up to this potential move, which is essentially disagreements between Bill Edwards and other NASL owners.

Tucson:  “We believe the time is right for the Tucson market to move up to the USL,” FC Tucson managing partner Greg Foster told the Arizona Daily Star. “We have a huge head start because our venue, Kino Stadium, is already in place.”

Foster told the publication that FC Tucson’s ownership has formed a steering committee to find investors to back the move to USL. “We’ve been running our PDL team like a USL team,” said Foster. “We believe we can significantly increase our footprint.”

“A USL team often has as many as four or five MLS players at a given time,” said Foster. “If we get a wholly owned affiliation, it would be a merger of our brand with an MLS franchise.”

Previously Midfield Press spoke with Rick Schantz, who signaled FC Tucson’s future intent on pro soccer.

October 2016 Update:  Nothing new.

Potential USL footprint beyond 2018 with expansion rumors

Potential USL footprint beyond 2018 based on expansion rumors

Lower League Teams Looking To Move Up To The Pros (NASL/USL)

FC Buffalo: In an interview with Midfield Press, FC Buffalo indicated that they are actively pursuing investors to help them take a step up to professional soccer, though they did not indicate whether they were interested in USL or NASL.

Detroit City FC:  Detroit City FC continues to grow in NPSL, with a 48% increase in attendance in 2016 over 2015 as the club moved into its new home of Keyworth Stadium.  Supporters raised $750,000 for renovations of Keyworth, and due to the success the club was able to return $107,000 to investors in the project.  DCFC ultimately aims to return 35% of investors money in the renovations.   Detroit averaged 5,255 for its 10 home matches, a number that would put it in the upper half of attendance in both NASL and USL.  Detroit City has discussed moving up to a professional league in the past.

Lansdowne Bhoys:  Celtic-affiliated Lansdowne Bhoys of the Bronx/Yonkers area of New York indicated an intention to go pro by 2018 amidst their US Open Cup run.

San Francisco City FC:  San Francisco City FC has new investors that intend to take the team to a professional league by next year or 2018, reports Evan Ream.  That league would likely be USL.

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The last expansion priority order we heard from MLS, via the Associated Press, had St. Louis and Sacramento in the lead, with Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin and Cincinnati following in that order.   It appears that this may be changing.  

FC Cincinnati is expecting a visit from Don Garber in late November, where he will review the sensational progress made by the team in USL this year and meet with the city’s mayor.  Garber made comments at the US Open Cup final that seemed to walk back prior statements at the Copa America that Miami was getting closer, while reinforcing the idea of a 28 team cap for MLS.  “As you know, it’s 28 teams for us. We’re a long way from 28, still haven’t finalized our 24th team. So that gives us five more teams to fill over the next however many years,” Garber said according to Goal.com.

With serious expansion efforts now under way in Nashville, Oklahoma City and Phoenix in addition the the markets named by the Associated Press, it seems unlikely that MLS will truly stop at 28 teams.  However, creating a sense of scarcity helps drive up expansion fees. Bloomberg reports that MLS will be seeking over $200 million for a franchise in the league moving forward.

 

Announced MLS Teams

Atlanta United FC

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Summary: Set to debut in 2017, Atlanta United FC is owned by Home Depot founder Arthur Blank and will share Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Blank’s NFL Atlanta Falcons.  They have already signed several players including former Atlanta Silverback Junior Burgos, who is on loan to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  Atlanta has set up an affiliation with the Charleston Battery of USL.   Atlanta United made a major signing in July, in the form of Trinidad & Tobago striker Kenwyne Jones.

Atlanta has sold more than 22,000 season tickets, and seem to be doing a good job converting their massive deposit numbers into actual sales.

October 2016 Update: Atlanta United is bringing former Barcelona and Argentina national team manager Gerardo Martino as their first head coach.  “We are delighted that a manager of Gerardo’s caliber and pedigree will be leading our team into our inaugural season,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said.  “His deep experience and success at both the club and international levels speak for itself, and his vision and approach aligns very well with our club philosophy. We’re confident in his ability to help build a winning culture both on and off the pitch.”

Meanwhile, the team will start its first season off at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium while it waits for its full time home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to be ready, rather than kick its tenure in MLS off with three months of road matches.  “With the amount of excitement we’ve seen for the club, especially over the past few months as our season ticket sales have continued to rise, it was evident that playing at home for the first part of the season was in the best interest of our fans and our players,” United president Darren Eales said.

 

Minnesota United FC

Minnesota United FC

With Minnesota United FC’s 2017 debut and the continuity of their brand now confirmed, the club must now prepare for the move to MLS.   The team is working on plans for a soccer-specific stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota, aimed to be ready in 2018.  Minnesota will play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium for at least once season as it awaits the completion of its own home.  The league will hold an expansion draft that Minnesota and Atlanta can partake in, and Minnesota will be allowed to sign players from its current NASL squad that it feels are up to the challenge of MLS.

October 2016 Update: With its MLS debut date finally cemented in August, Minnesota United is off to a good start from a business perspective, with over 8,000 season ticket deposits in place.  

More on Minnesota United FC.

 

Los Angeles FC

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Set to debut in 2018, Los Angeles FC’s investor group includes famous names such as Magic Johnson, Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciaparra, Will Ferrell and Tony Robbins. The club kicked off the construction of its downtown stadium in August, on the site of the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.  Banc of California was revealed as the stadium’s naming rights sponsor.   A venue it controls in a location away from the Carson-based Galaxy will give LAFC a distinct advantage that Chivas USA never had as the second MLS team in the LA market.  

The Orange County Register reported that the club is looking at building a complex in Tustin, California. MLS may not be the only league LAFC enters in 2018, with rumors that minority owner Mia Hamm will spearhead efforts for an LAFC NWSL club.

October 2016 Update: LAFC’s academy kicked off competitive games last month with a win over the LA Galaxy academy.

More on LAFC.

 

Semi-Announced Teams

Miami

miami-beckham-united

David Beckham’s star crossed saga to bring Major League Soccer to Miami may have had a breakthrough.  Beckham’s investment group includes media mogul Simon Fuller and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure.  The Beckham group identified a piece of land in the Overtown section of Miami, but have balked at demands from Miami-Dade County.  Previous talks with the Qatari owners of Paris Saint Germain reportedly broke down, but it appears that new investors have emerged to help Beckham achieve his long delayed goal of bringing MLS to Miami.

Sprint CEO and Miami MLS co-owner Marcelo Claure assured fans on Twitter that the Miami MLS team is getting close:  “It’s coming. Final stretch. We have waited so long that now we are ironing final details.”

Don Garber also sounded positive on Miami’s chances of entering MLS in 2018 when speaking with Rob Stone on Fox Sports 1. “This is the never-ending Miami saga, Rob. But hey, as you probably read, a new investor has been engaging with David Beckham and his partners,” said Garber. “They have secured land. I think, more so than ever before, Miami is really looking like it’s going to be in our league, playing in 2018. We’ve been feeling good about it for a while, and now we’re feeling better about it than ever before.”

Sacramento Republic owner Warren Smith told the Sacramento Bee that the Republic’s time frame might be approaching because, “[MLS] resolved the Miami issue, so maybe we’re next.”  This coincides with reports that Fortress Investment Group’s Wesley Evans has joined Beckham’s team of investors, providing more deep pockets and connections in the community.

October 2016 Update: Is David Beckham’s Miami effort backsliding again?  Don Garber spoke in more cautious tones at the US Open Cup final than he had during Copa America.  “As you know, it’s 28 teams for us. We’re a long way from 28, still haven’t finalized our 24th team. So that gives us five more teams to fill over the next however many years,” Garber said according to Goal.com.  The MLS commissioner’s phrasing there would imply that another group could step in Miami’s place.

 

MLS Contenders

Sacramento Republic FC

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Sacramento is the MLS bid that has it all.  They have a strong fan base in USL, support of the local government, a downtown stadium plan and an investor group that includes NFL (49ers) and NBA (Kings) owners. Sacramento is the odds-on favorite for the 25th MLS expansion spot, and could debut earlier than Miami if Beckham’s group cannot get their stadium situation nailed down.

The San Jose Earthquakes’ decision to partner with Reno 1868 as its USL affiliate moving forward is seen as a prelude to Sacramento’s ascension to Major League Soccer.  Sacramento would have preferred to keep the partnership going until its MLS debut, but team president Warren Smith says that they understand the move by San Jose.  “I would have loved for it to continue,” Smith said. “But they’ve got needs of their own, and we’ve got to be respectful of that. They want to grow a USL team in their own way.”

Smith told the Sacramento Bee that the Republic may look to field its own USL team once it joins MLS. “Everything is contingent upon when we come into the league, if we are that fortunate,” Smith said. “Then we will evaluate at that point.”

“Ideally the best for us is to have the USL team play in a place where we could sell out the new facility (in the downtown railyards) and hopefully sell out the facility for the USL. Does that mean in the market? Does that mean in a different market? Or does that mean an affiliation?

“Right now we own an asset (Bonney Field) that doesn’t make sense for us to dispose of. So we’ll want to see how we use this to our best advantage.”

The Sacramento Bee reported that MLS has assured Warren Smith that Sacramento will be admitted to the league if the team stays the course.   “The MLS All-Star game is in San Jose this year and the board of governors will meet and perhaps we’ll have a timetable then,” Smith told the fans. “They resolved the Miami issue, so maybe we’re next.”

October 2016 Update:  Sacramento’s stadium plans are undergoing minor revisions as the team hopes to be officially admitted to MLS in the near future.

More on Sacramento Republic FC.

 

Saint Louis FC  

saint-louis-fc

When the NFL Rams departed St. Louis for Los Angeles, Major League Soccer perked up about the opportunity to bring MLS to St. Louis.  The city has long been a target of MLS, dating back to when the Philadelphia Union beat out a Jeff Cooper-led St. Louis expansion bid.  The MLS2STL group exploring a potential MLS bid includes the Jim Kavanaugh of the USL Saint Louis FC club, former Anheuser Busch president Dave Peacock and St. Louis Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III.

The MLS2STL group has identified what they consider to be a strong ownership candidate who is currently in due diligence on starting up an MLS franchise.  “I wouldn’t take the lack of fireworks to be misunderstood as a lack of activity,” said Jim Woodcock, global sports co-lead and senior vice president at FleishmanHillard, who is a member and spokesman for MLS2STL. “We’ve had a lot of discussions, a lot of progress. There’s a long, long way to go but the arrows are pointing positively. We hope that will continue in the short term.”

Woodcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that  the potential owner “very strong, viable candidate. That doesn’t discount the potential of other candidates coming forward or groups coming back stronger.”

“This particular ownership candidate is still in a period of due diligence,” Woodcock said. “There’s no timetable for this candidate or any candidate. … This particular ownership candidate is very financially viable, has a strong personal and professional interest. One thing that’s fair to say is this particular candidate has connections with other league owners in Major League Soccer and has some professional sports experience.

“We’re keeping the league up to date. Everything to this point is very encouraging. It wouldn’t be the wisest move to prematurely, for this candidate or anyone, get something out for keeping pace with other cities.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that ex-Rams players Chris Long and Aeneas Williams have discussed becoming minority investors in the project.

A second group has emerged in the effort to bring MLS to St. Louis.  Dan Cordes, an early employee at Express Scripts, is the public face of the Foundry St. Louis group.

“This is not just a bunch of guys that decided one night let’s do this,” Cordes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We have investors both inside and outside St. Louis who have committed the necessary moneys or funding necessary for the franchise. So we’re fine. … We just want there to be more than one option for the league to look at when it comes to an ownership group in St. Louis.”

The article states that the Foundry group is looking at land north of St. Louis University’s medical center as a stadium site.  They are also open to joining forces with the MLS2STL bid.

“My thought is that generally one plus one equals three,” said Cordes. “I’d love to meet with [Dave Peacock], combine the best of our ideas with his ideas, and make this into something St. Louis would be proud of.”

October 2016 Update:  A lawsuit originally aimed against using public funds for potential stadium for the NFL Rams, who have since moved to Los Angeles, could create complications for a similar effort to use public funds for a St. Louis MLS team.

More on Saint Louis FC.

 

Detroit

detroit-mls

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert are teaming up on a bid to bring MLS to the Motor City.  The fact that Detroit is one of the largest US markets MLS is not in today and its impressive investor group means it joins Sacramento, St. Louis and San Antonio as MLS expansion frontrunners.

Tom Gores told the Detroit Free Press that, while the group prefers the Wayne County jail site for its stadium, it is open to other ideas. “Dan [Gilbert] is working on it. We’re not married to (the jail site). What we’re married to is getting another sports team in Detroit.

“We think a soccer franchise in Detroit could be really good. And I think we’re going to get it there, one way or another.”

Amid an Associated Press report focusing on the negative impact an MLS team could have on Detroit City FC and the Michigan Bucks, Detroit MLS investor Arn Tellem expressed hope that they could work with the lower league clubs, “I think we want to be inclusive with DCFC and the Bucks and work with them, and we can learn a lot from them. I think the groups that are running these organizations are really smart and civic minded. They have done an incredible job, and I think we can learn a lot from them and we will. Every time I’m with them, I leave feeling more positive that we have to do this together. We can’t do this without them.”

October 2016 Update:  Tom Gores provided something of a non-update update on the potential Detroit MLS franchise last month to Detroit Free Press.  “We’re working on it. It’s going to take a little time to develop. We’re working on it. We’re kind of in the same place we were a couple of months ago,” Gores said.  Asked about the reported $200M expansion fee, Gores seemed unfazed.  “I think it’s fine. We’re going to meet with the (MLS commissioner Don Garber). It’s going to be great for the city of Detroit. We got some work to do. It’s not a done deal, so we got some work to do to deliver it.”

 

San Diego

San Diego is ripe for the taking

Like St. Louis, San Diego becomes a very appealing opportunity for MLS should the Chargers leave San Diego for LA, despite MLS already having two teams in Southern California.

The leading San Diego MLS group appears to be led by private equity investor Mike Stone.  The group includes San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler and retired Qualcomm executive Steve Altman, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Separately, former San Diego Padres owner John Moores has also showed interest in bring MLS to San Diego.  Moores was recently involved in a bid for Everton FC.   

“My interest flows from the fact that I have a lot of respect for Mike Stone because of his approach and his leadership qualities and his analytical view of things, and because we look at the sports world from a similar perspective,” Seidler said.

“It’s a public-private partnership and owners have an obligation to the fans and the community. There’s a civic component that I believe in and Mike shares and an effort to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to San Diego I think if done right could be great for the city.”

US Soccer legend Landon Donovan, who recently purchased a minority stake in EPL club Swansea acknowledged discussions with investors interested in bringing pro soccer to San Diego.  “If I can be a part of that, it would be tremendous,” he said to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I would love to see this area have a USL (United Soccer League) team or MLS team. This is a crazy soccer market.”   

In terms of where the team would play, there is talk of partnering with San Diego State University on a stadium in Mission Valley.

October 2016 Update: MLS fans in San Diego were positively encouraged last month when a survey was released on behalf of “a private investment group, in partnership with San Diego State University, [that] is currently assessing the potential viability of a new stadium in Mission Valley that could serve as the home of an expansion Major League Soccer team and San Diego State University football.”

 

San Antonio FC

San_Antonio_FC

Spurs Sports & Entertainment launched the USL San Antonio FC with the express intent of bringing the team to MLS.  San Antonio FC essentially replaced the San Antonio Scorpions of NASL when the county bought the rights to Toyota Field from Scorpions owner Gordon Hartman.  As part of the deal SS&E made with the city and county, it will have to pay $2.5M penalties to each of them if the team is not in MLS after six years.

October 2016 Update:  San Antonio FC has been in “consistent dialogue” with MLS regarding expansion, according to the San Antonio Express-News.  “If we’re going to make a compelling case to Major League Soccer that San Antonio is a MLS market, then we need to be able to put our best foot forward,” San Antonio FC managing director Tim Holt told the Express-News. “It was a good, solid first year. But the second year, for us, is the critical year in terms of getting this to the level that we know we can get it at.”

More on San Antonio FC.

 

Austin

Austin_Evening

Aztex owner Rene van de Zande and Bobby Epstein, CEO of the Circuit of the Americas, have been working to bring a MLS team to Austin.  Austin’s inclusion in Don Garber’s recent list of MLS expansion candidates is somewhat surprising, since the city is located so close to San Antonio.  

The idea that Austin is competing with San Antonio for a what would almost certainly be a final Texas MLS berth became more curious with the news from the Austin American-Statesman that van de Zande and Epstein’s Austin Aztex will forego the 2017 USL season after sitting out 2016.

October 2016 Update: Nothing new.

 

FC Cincinnati

fcCincinnati_Logo

Successful new USL franchise FC Cincinnati reached out to MLS to inquire about expansion, but was told it may take a few years. Their impressive box-office success has forced Cincinnati into the conversation for the 25-28th MLS franchise berths.

FC Cincinnati remains focused on being the best USL club they can be while they wait on MLS.  “We’re respectful of their process,” Cincinnati general manager Jeff Berding told WCPO. “We wanted to state our ambitions as we launched and let it be known what our goals are, but every day since, we’ve been focusing on being the strongest USL franchise we can be. We’re not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but we believe if we do everything we can to be the best USL team we can, in that process, we will have established ourselves as worthy of consideration during expansion talks.”

FC Cincinnati will not be deterred by the Bloomberg report that the price for a new MLS franchise may be over $200 million.  “The USL is an aspirational league, and we hope to follow Orlando, Portland and others in making a future jump to the MLS,” Jeff Berding told Cincinnati.com. “We are following MLS expansion closely, and there is nothing that we have learned from MLS that discourages us from our goals.”

FC Cincinnati leaders held talks with MLS officials in New York, according to WCPO.

October 2016 Update:  Could Cincinnati be moving up the MLS expansion priority list?  MLS commissioner Don Garber is scheduled to visit the city on November 29th to meet with team leaders and the mayor.   Fox Sports reports that GM Jeff Berding intends to show the MLS commissioner “first-hand the great things happening in the city, things that enabled us to have incredible inaugural season.”

Meanwhile the club will begin working on a practice facility off site of Nippert Stadium that could be upgraded to MLS quality.

More on FC Cincinnati.

 

Las Vegas

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A potential move by the NFL Raiders to Las Vegas heated up in August, with Las Vegas Raiders being trademarked and renderings of a potential stadium being released.  The San Jose Mercury News reports that “an unnamed Major League Soccer franchise was also interested in using the space.”  

While that phrasing implies relocation, an expansion bid is more likely especially considering one of the companies seeking to build the Raiders stadium is the Las Vegas Sands Group. Las Vegas Sands Group board member Jason N. Ader is interested in investing in a Las Vegas MLS team.  MLS rejected Las Vegas bid supported by Mayor Goodman and Findlay Sports and Entertainment previously.  

The National Hockey League awarded Las Vegas a new franchise to start in the 2017-2018 season, breaking a long standing taboo on having pro sports operate out of the nation’s gambling center.

October 2016 Update:  Fox Sports reports that the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee recommended an hotel tax hike to raise $700 million to fund the construction of the potential Raiders/MLS stadium.

 

The Rest of the Field:  The Nashville MLS group has formally brought Nashville SC into the fold as part of its efforts, with Bill Hegarty calling the USL team a “natural affiliate” to a future MLS club in the city… The Tampa Bay Rowdies drop down to USL next year could be a precursor to an MLS effort, according to Sports Illustrated… Arizona United SC’s new investors, a group of leading Phoenix businessmen, are interested in “growing the game to new heights” in their city… The owner of the Oklahoma City Energy acquired 37 acres of downtown land with eyes towards building a soccer specific stadium for the club that would help it push for MLS… Louisville City FC’s stadium study confirmed the team’s need for a 10,000 seat soccer specific home of its own in order to continue the club’s growth.  The report also contains information on a larger scale stadium that would be needed for MLS … The Charlotte Independence have expressed interest in a move to MLS, and the CEO of Charlotte’s Chamber of Commerce echoed hopes that the Queen City could become home to a MLS team, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Candian Footy Crest

“Basically it will be a CFL-NHL mix of ownership,” John McGrane, a minority partner in the prospective Hamilton soccer team, told The Hamilton Spectator of the potential Canadian Premier League. The League is expected to start play in 2018.

Duane Rollins reports the CanPL will likely look like the Canadian Football League minus Edmonton.  The CFL has teams in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Regina and Hamilton in addition to Edmonton.  Rollins also reported that the Ottawa Fury is expected to defect to this league, while FC Edmonton plans to stay with NASL.

CFL.ca writer Carlos Verde reported on Twitter:  “Source: Canadian Premier League wants “Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Hamilton, (GTA), Ottawa, Quebec, (Maritimes)” as founding eight.”  In follow up tweets, Verde said his source told him the CanPL will “largely steer clear of MLS markets” and seemed more optimistic about Edmonton joining the CanPL than Rollins, despite the Fath’s ownership stake in NASL.

In one of the more tangible signs of life for the Canadian Premier League recently, the Hamilton club issued a survey to fans about its potential soccer team.

 

October 2016 Update:   Anthony Totera, the host of the Red Card Radio, said his sources confirmed plans for a Canadian Premier League are in the works. Totera tweeted, “Boom Sources seconds ago confirm to me that the first phase of the Canadian pro league is done target date for 2018 #CPL.”  Totera later added that the investors behind the league have deep pockets and a commitment to developing the sport in Canada.  Totera also evangelized the need for the Canadian Premier League on YouTube, talking about its necessity to develop Canadian players, coaches and administrators to take soccer in the country to the next level. 

While not necessarily tied to the Canadian Premier League, the Calgary Foothills Soccer Club is investing $10M into a year round training facility.  The Calgary Metro reports that the team has ambitions of playing in a professional league, citing a desire to move to MLS within 10 years. “By having this facility it allows us the flexibility to train like an outdoor team but in the confines of the winter season,” said Tommy Wheeldon Jr., the club’s technical director.  The Foothills currently play the fourth tier Premier Development League.

The Toronto Sun reports that leaders of Toronto FC have taken interest in a potential Canadian league and will meet with Canadian Soccer Association officials to discuss how TFC might get involved.

“Opportunities for more Canadian players is something Toronto FC wants to support,” team president Bill Manning told the Toronto Sun last month. “We just have to figure out how we can be involved.

“Is it the right model? Is it some kind of hybrid with the USL? We want to have those conversations and be supportive of it. If the CPL is going to go forward, we want to be involved.”

“I don’t want to create confusion in the marketplace,” Manning said. “I told [CSA president] Victor [Montagliani] we want to be involved and want to be at the table when this league or division comes about.”

Manning added: “It’s not a competitor to MLS.”

“If we can provide for our young players coming up and (TFC) can put a team in that league, we’re interested,” Manning added.

3 Responses

  1. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    AS usual the CPL is nothing but speculation. Nothing from potential investors or the CSA, nothing from a league sources…just hype form reporters..in the end at best it will e a D3 league

    1. Daniel

      I understand your view point, but it’s not just reporters forming hype. Vic Montagliani (CSA HEAD, and currently CONCACAF chief) admitted the work going on to make it happen. John McGrane (partner with Hamilton’s CPL club) blatantly said who would be involved, without naming SPECIFIC names. Why would either of them put their necks out for false information? It would be social suicide.

  2. ZMWTally

    Canada has 30 odd million people. Certainly big enough to support a professional league. I’d love to see them put together a league of clubs and not franchises, pay training and compensation, and see how quick they can develop strong and valuable players. Having a good Canada in CONCACAF can only force the US to get better.