Originally posted by Daniel Williams:
With 5 of the 7 MLS applicants for expansion being current USL 1 cities, it would seem that being able to demonstrate that the city will support soccer to some degree might be important. That doesn't bode well for St. Louis or Ottawa (or really Miami for that matter). I think every city interested in going to MLS should get started with a USL team first. I think we will see a big difference between Seattle and Philadelphia because of the experience and devotion to the Sounders. Maybe I will be wrong (it has happened plenty of times before). I wonder what happened to all the other wannabe MLS cities - they should go USL 1 (or at least USL 2) first.
I can't say that I agree with you - Toronto had little to no support for the then USL 1st Division Lynx, but look at the sold-out venue they have had for the past two seasons for their MLS team! Perception is reality, and in their case, the area's football fans saw Toronto FC at another level, so they came out to support them.
Another example would be in Seattle. The Sounders have been a very competitive USL 1st Division team for years, with alot of talent moving on to the MLS...but what kind of attaendance or support have they seen from the local market? Now that they have their MLS team starting next year, the franchise has already announced they have sold 16,000 season tickets for a team that doesn't even have a coach or single player yet! (Philly may not make as big an opening as Seattle, but they were the biggest TV market not yet in MLS, so they (ESPN) were VERY keen on getting in that market.)
I think that St. Louis has a very good chance, despite not having a pro team in a very long time. They have supposedly gotten significantly more financial support for their ownership group, already have a plan and government backing for a SSS facility and extended grounds around the stadium, and a long history of soccer in the region (who have already been banding together to support such an MLS franchise bid).
As for starting in the USL first, they are two entirely different, un-related business plans. The MLS and USL used to have an agreement covering player movement between the two leagues, but that expired some years ago and the two sides could not come to a new agreement. Other than that, they are two competing entities, and I don't see the USL being very pleased as being seen/used as a breeding ground for MLS franchises without some kind of significant renumeration!
Of the announced MLS bids, I think that St. Louis has as good or even better chance than Ottawa, Miami, or even Portland.
I think that the MLS decision will look more at the financial viability of the ownership groups, TV/media markets involved, the status or plans towards an independent SSS facility, and the size/support of the soccer community of the proposed market. Another factor may be if there are any regional/national/international companies based within said market that might be interested in becoming a corporate sponsor.
If I had to guess I see it as;
- MLS has said they want to get a team back in the Southeast region of the country
- MLS want to expand their ownership groups (tie to NFL)
- One of the largest TV/Media markets to yet represented in the MLS
(Note - no facility plan as of yet!)
- SSS facility already in place (needs investment to upgrade and expand)
- Ownership group with funds and connections to NHL and EPL
- proven history of support for the game
- immediate rivalry with Toronto FC (closer than Vancouver)
- for all the reasons above
- Strong ownership support ($)
- immediate access to larger facility (short term) with possibility of SSS facility in the near future given political clout of ownership group
- history of support for high level soccer in the past
Outside Looking In:
- no facility & going in to FIU means dealing with Univirsity conflicts and limitations
- split ownership group, where MLS will have to deal with a board (Barcelona)
- general lack of support for sports in the region in the past; soccer fans of the area (as many as there are?) have alot of other options
- relatively small TV/Media Market
- competition from other Canadian proposals
- lack of previous history/support of soccer
- Too much needs to be done (and cost) for facility to be transormed to SSS AND have baseball team move into new facility
(depending on their on-going efforts, I could see them come in on the next round)
I think that groups considering the MLS would not generally consider the USL, and vice vera, because they are just on VERY different financial scales with very different business plans.