SBD/April 13, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS' Abbott Hopes To Add 20th Team Soon, But Further Expansion Plans Unclear

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Abbott places the buy-in price for an expansion franchise at $100M
MLS President Mark Abbott said that while the league “hopes to add a 20th team soon, a second in the New York market," the timetable for further expansion is “far more hazy,” according to Luke DeCock of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. Abbott said, “In the United States and Canada, there’s the capacity to have more than 20 teams, but how we do that has not been determined yet.” Abbott said that the Raleigh-Durham market would “need to demonstrate its viability by generating average crowds” for the NASL Carolina RailHawks games of at least 10,000. The RailHawks averaged “about 3,000 fans last season.” Four teams have moved up from the NASL to MLS in the last three years, but even NASL Commissioner David Downs pointed out that the Montreal Impact “was in existence for 18 years before it made the jump to MLS.” The RailHawks are in only their sixth season. Abbott did “lay out a three-point path to MLS for the Triangle, or any would-be MLS city.” He said an ownership group must be “willing to take on the financial burden of both buying and owning a team.” He added that there also needs to be a stadium “that can hold at least 20,000 fans,” and a market that “can generate regular crowds near the MLS average of 18,000, provide corporate support and is a major television market” (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 4/13). Abbott said that the “buy-in price would be $100 million” for the next franchise (AP, 4/12).

SHOW ME THE MONEY: In Montreal, Randy Phillips notes MLS “ranks a distant last among the five major pro sports leagues in North America, with an average salary ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 because of the fluid movement on rosters, especially early in the season.” The NBA topped the list in ‘10-11 with an average salary of $5.15M, followed by MLB ($3.31M), the NHL ($2.4M) and the NFL ($1.9M). The average salary in MLS is “skewed at the best of times because of salaries commanded by designated players, who can sign with clubs until July 1, as well as other player transactions that occur once the season starts.” While only three players earned $5M or more last season, another 37 "made $250,000 or more in ‘average guaranteed compensation.’" That number includes “a player's base salary and all signing and guaranteed bonuses, which are annualized over the term of a contract, including option years” (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 4/13).
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