SBD/September 13, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Blank Closing In On Landing MLS Franchise After Falcons' Stadium Deal Passed

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Blank lost a bid for an MLS expansion team about five years ago
Falcons Owner Arthur Blank is "in significant discussions" with MLS about "bringing an expansion franchise to Atlanta," according to Doug Roberson of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Sources said that the recent approval of the Falcons' new stadium "accelerated the talks between Blank and the league." The construction of the stadium is scheduled to be finished in '17, and the two parties have "discussed opening the facility with an MLS game when the season begins in March." Included in the contracts for the Falcons’ new stadium "are provisions for a yet-to-be-established MLS team." MLS wants to "add four expansion franchises" between '15-20, which would bring it to 24 teams. MLS Commissioner Don Garber on Wednesday said three of those four franchises "are spoken for." A source said Atlanta's expansion fee would be close to $100M. Roberson reports the city has "long been considered a possible spot for an expansion team because it is a top-10 media market of more than 5 million people, and soccer is popular in the area." MLS does not currently have a franchise in the Southeast, and Garber has repeatedly said that the league "can't be considered national until it has a team in the region" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/13). SI.com's Brian Straus notes it is "unclear whether Blank’s MLS team would launch in 2017 or join the league earlier and play in a temporary home." The new stadium is "being designed with a wide, soccer-friendly field and MLS locker rooms," and it also may "feature a secondary retractable roof system that will cover the upper tiers, leaving approximately 27,000 seats available for league games." Blank was one of seven potential MLS owners who "bid for an expansion team" back in '08-09, but Atlanta lost out to the Timbers and Whitecaps (SI.com, 9/13).

SO KLOSE, YET SO FAR AWAY: FS1's Eric Wynalda noted German F Miroslav Klose has received offers from several MLS clubs to be their Designated Player when his contract with Serie A club Lazio expires and said, "He's 35 years old. This is not a retirement league, but the perception of reality will outweigh the reality of the situation if he comes and plays in this league." Wynalda: "I get it and all the things he has been as a player, but I'm sorry. He's a has-been. He doesn't belong in a league that's growing and going in the right direction and spending money on younger talent and players that -- let’s just quite frankly say it -- are American." FS1's Cobi Jones said signing Klose "would be a step backwards" because the MLS is at a point where the league "doesn’t want to go back to bringing over foreign players" that are in the downside of their careers ("Fox Soccer Daily," FS1, 9/12).
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