MLS announced that they will be expanding to two new cities in their never ending quest to be the best league in the world by 2022, despite not actually making substantive changes needed to do so. Let’s meet the cities who are vying to receive the honor of giving the other 23 owners in the league somewhere in the range of $300 million total to join the second best pro soccer league in North America.
So, let’s get to know who is going to be trying to steal our players and hold them hostage for allocation money in the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft.
Pros - Potential rival to Atlanta United, but in a serious “they might be a good team we should respect that” kind of way rather than a hilarious “they lost their last regular season game to Philly by 5 goals and their Sons of Anarchy reject fans can’t come to our stadium until 2019” kind of way. Things could even kick off as early as next year with Atlanta and the extremely MLS attractive named Nashville SC face off in a pre-season friendly.
Plus, according to Sports Illustrated, “What matters most to MLS is committed local ownership, a locked-down stadium deal, support from political and business communities and good demographics.” No word if the committed local ownership is a condition for already existing teams being bought by venture capitalists 2,500 miles away.
Cons - If Atlanta was a supposed “Bad Sports Town” then Nashville is a bad at sports town. 538 did a bunch of math about how bad they are at sports and it turns out that most games end 3⁄4 of the way through and the hometown team just decides to visit a Hot Chicken stand, listen to someone trying to be the next Johnny Cash, and call it a night. MLS is already filled with bad teams, does the league really need another one?
Most Devious Move - Not everyone is happy they are, or would be pending getting a franchise presumably, getting their stadium at something called the Nashville Fairgrounds. Apparently, the great city of Nashville just horking a private entity a massive pile of public land might be illegal because it would prevent the state fair from taking place on the Fairgrounds, which legally must be held ever year. This might scare Don Garber away, he seems to have no regard to fans outside of using them as marketing props based on the Crew possibly moving to Austin, but crossing a crew of carnies is a totally different proposition. Anyone who can affect the laws of physics to defraud children playing carnival games of money probably shouldn’t be angered.
Pros - Established, committed fan base with nothing better to do other than watch soccer or drive 150 miles in either direction to get to the mountains or a good city. Also, anything connected to the noble stands of the early 2000s Kings teams that fought valiantly only to be crushed by the Lakers is good.
Cons - MLS seems like they just aren’t that into Sacramento. Every time expansion comes up, MLS passes on Sacramento for a younger, sexier, more unavailable city like Miami that will end up unable to put down roots and just ignore MLS. Meanwhile they tell Sacramento they aren’t good enough for the league and have to make changes. The ownership group then goes through a complete makeover to MLS’ exact specifications, losing any sense of self or consideration for what’s best for Sacramento, only to get passed over again for an ownership that is just going to use MLS to get public land for some swarmy real estate deal. Sacramento is the friend that MLS has that keeps inviting it to visit, and MLS always says “yeah, I’ll check my calendar” and then goes and does something else like make a confusing roster funding mechanism that creates a situation where a team could afford a $14 million transfer but not to re-sign Jeff Larentowicz (#PAYLARRY). All that is to say: does MLS really want a 4th team in California?
Most Devious Move - An ownership coup. Somehow any discussion of the chicanery of Sacramento Republic owner Kevin Nagle didn’t pop up in many discussions about the team as news that it would be considered for MLS expansion broke. Usually, the feel good tendencies of those who cover the league only apply to existing MLS teams, but it looks like Nagle is getting grandfathered in. Apparently, the bid submitted in February didn’t include the Sacramento Republic and that team’s fate would be unclear in the event that Nagle managed to secure an expansion team. It’s hard to tell if another situation with a swarmy owner who might just uproot his team to Vinic, California for tax breaks at the first sign of his stadium needing new seats is a concern or an asset for the league at this point though.
That’s it for Part I, come back later for Part II where we’ll look at the bids from Hell, Michigan and Celeryville, Ohio.