Nashville and Other Cities Hopeful of MLS Expansion
Major League Soccer is steadily growing, and despite the league not achieving the popularity as those in Europe or even in Central and South America, there’s a lot of potential that is waiting to be explored. Some of the biggest news in recent weeks, is the Nashville expansion bid. The city is eyeing its own club and a major stadium build, which could help to expand the reach of MLS throughout the state.
Here’s the latest on the Nashville expansion plans, as well as details from other cities that are bidding to be part of the MLS expansion.
Mayor of Nashville Announces MLS Stadium
Although it’s just a proposal at this stage, there’s a lot of momentum behind Nashville’s plans for an MLS team and stadium. In October, Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, along with businessman John R. Ingram, announced plans to develop a $250 million stadium that could seat up to 27,500 soccer fans.Barry and Ingram are optimistic about their bid, especially considering that Nashville is already a well-established city that is widely recognized on the world stage.
Ingram Ind. CFO Mary Cavarra presents the Nashville MLS stadium plan to a Fair Board/ Sports Authority meeting at the Fairgrounds. pic.twitter.com/om7tyGECbj
— @MLS2Nashville (@mls2nashville) October 5, 2017
In a press release, Ingram said that “We are making this investment in Nashville because we believe in this city. This is a can-do community, and we know bringing Major League Soccer here is something sports fans want. We are an international city, and soccer is the world’s sport.”Nashville is a thriving city that sees a large amount of domestic and international tourism. Known as the music capital of America, a Major League Soccer franchise could be the perfect fit for a city that already attracts millions of visitors every year.
The stadium would be located within the Nashville Fairgrounds, putting it right in the heart of the city. Funding would come from multiple sources, with less than 10% of the total cost being shouldered by the city. Private funds would make up the remaining 90% of the estimated $250 million construction budget. An expansion fee to create a team in Nashville would cost around $150 million, which would be covered by the MLS Ownership Group.
Soccer is not a new sport in the United States, but it is a sport that has so far failed to achieve the popularity of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and Motorsports like NASCAR and Indy Car. However, audiences are growing every year, and the expansion of the MLS would only be beneficial for both fans and for the league itself.
Nashville Not the Only City Aiming for MLS Participation
Nashville’s plans are not guaranteed, because they will be bidding against eleven other potential teams. There are currently two slots available for expansion, which would take MLS up to a total of 26 teams. Charlotte in North Carolina is also bidding for an expansion team, with Marcus Smith (the president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports) heading the project.
Indianapolis is another potential expansion location. Already the home to one of Motorsport’s most prestigious races, Indianapolis already has the infrastructure in place to support large soccer games. The addition of a stadium and an Indianapolis based team would be a good fit for the city. Indianapolis announced their expansion submission in January of this year, and their proposal is for a downtown stadium that would be suitable for up to 20,000 spectators.
Indianapolis’ downtown district offers easy access for both motorists and pedestrians, and the stadium would be near a number of key dining and entertainment spots, making this a particularly appealing bid. Phoenix, Arizona, is also hopeful of hosting an expansion team.
There is increasing support within Phoenix, and a number of key political and business leaders inside the city are backing the project. Phoenix has released details on a potential stadium, which would be primarily designed for soccer, climate controlled, and within convenient distance of light-rail services. On the West Coast, San Diego is one city that is interested in hosting an expansion team and developing the necessary facilities. San Diego is a diverse city with a large technology sector, and a huge sporting fan base.
With the loss of the San Diego Chargers to their new home in Los Angeles, the city could be ready for another large sports team. Plans announced in January are inclusive of a 30,000 seat stadium in Mission Valley. This would be in addition to the 70,000 capacity Qualcomm stadium nearby. Backers of the San Diego expansion bid include Peter Siedler (managing partner of the San Diego Padres, and Steve Altman (the former Qualcomm president).
St. Petersburg in the Tampa Bay Area, is another potential location for a stadium and a new franchise team. The city already has the Al Lang Stadium, a 7200 seat facility used for baseball, which would be modified to increase the capacity to 18,000 seats. A pre-agreement for a lease has already been confirmed, making the expansion bid possible.
The key figure in this expansion bid is Bill Edwards, a St. Petersburg businessman who is the current owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, St. Petersburg’s soccer team that currently competes in the Eastern Conference of the United Soccer League. The Rowdies won the NASL Soccer Bowl in 2012, and are multiple winners of the Coastal Cup.
MLS Expansion: Full Integration Not Expected Until 2020 or Later
Other cities placing bids for expansion include Detroit, Cincinnati, Sacramento, San Antonio, Raleigh/Durham, and St. Louis. Although expansion details have not been finalized, it is expected that it would take at least 2 – 3 years before new teams can be fully incorporated into the MLS. Most stadium plans would take at least two years of renovation and/or construction, so cities that already have large sporting facilities may be preferred by MLS officials.We’ll keep up to date with expansion news as more details emerge.