MLS Expansion, What is the Magic Number?

During the All-Star game Commissioner Don Garber spoke of the vision for the future in MLS. Expansion is high on there list with them looking to increase it’s number of teams to twenty four by 2020. Since the league began play in 1996 with ten teams it’s first expansion started two years later when the now defunct Miami Fusion and the Chicago Fire joined the party.

2002 saw a reduction in the number of teams as the two Florida based teams ceased operations. The Miami Fusion due to low attendance and an unfavorable stadium deal, and the Tampa Bay Mutiny due to the lack of local ownership.

In 2005 the expansion program started again with Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake joining the proceedings. Two years later and the first team outside of the USA took to the field as Toronto FC started play. The following year a team was back in San Jose after the previous incumbents had moved to Houston in 2006. The last four years have seen the league increase by another five teams. Seattle Sounders 2009, Philadelphia Union 2010, Portland Timbers and  a second Canadian team the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2011 and finally last year they added another outfit North of the Border as the Montreal Impact joined up.

New York City FC are already slated to start playing in the 2015 campaign and Wednesday’s news would give immediate hope to several markets looking to break into the league, such as Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit and Sacramento, to name but a few – several of whom had representatives presenting to the MLS Board of Governors in Kansas City this past week. Orlando City co-owner Phil Rawlins has already stated he believes his team are in a position to also join the league in 2015 if given the green light.

Garber also commented.“We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game. As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.” Twenty four teams would make it the highest number of teams in any top fight league but that will not necessary translate to it being one of the best leagues. As the Ice Hockey’s NHL found out the more teams you have the more top players you need to attract to your competition and the more the money goes out as well.

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These are ambitious times for MLS and the next few years will certainly have a huge bearing on how the league goes forward. Lets just hope it is a positive outcome this time unlike previous dawns when someones tries to make them a major player only to see their plans and the leagues in ruins.

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