MLS Team Execs Forecast League's Eventual Expansion; Southeast Region A Possible Target
MLS Sounders GM & minority Owner Adrian Hanauer does not think the addition of NYC FC will be the "end of the story" when it comes to league expansion, according to Joshua Mayers of the SEATTLE TIMES. Hanauer said, "How and when the next expansion happens, I couldn’t say, but there are certainly a lot of big, important markets left in this country." Hanauer: "I know most leagues around the world have 16, 18, 20 teams, but this is just a different beast in North America. When you look at the size of Canada and the United States put together, to compare that to another league around the world and suggest that we should have 20 teams, as well, I just don’t think is realistic long-term." He said expanding into the Southeast "is another step along the way." Hanauer: "It’s just clear that there’s a big fan opportunity, big television opportunity that just doesn’t exist today" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 5/23). Rapids President Tim Hinchey said he thinks having 20 teams "is a great number," but he added, "No doubt, we’ll be at 24 by 2022." Hinchey: "We can’t not be in the southeast. I think Orlando is pretty serious. I’ve heard they’re very solid. They’ve been connected to Stoke City." He noted Orlando City Soccer Club Owner & President Phil Rawlins is "very well funded." In Denver, Nick Groke noted the Tampa Bay Mutiny (one of the original 10 teams in MLS in '96), and the Miami Fusion (which joined in '98), "both disbanded in 2001." MLS contracted back to 10 teams in '01, and the league has "moved slowly to get back to 20 teams." Hinchey: "I like Don Garber’s pragmatic approach. I like that we walk before we run. They’re learning from the franchises that struggled" (DENVERPOST.com, 5/23).
TAKING A BIG STEP FORWARD: The DENVER POST's Groke writes NYC FC "represents a giant step forward for MLS" as the announcement "alone probably increased the value of the league and its teams significantly." Hinchey said having the Yankees and EPL club Manchester City behind NYC FC will "move the needle commercially in MLS." Groke notes NYC FC "becomes only the second MLS team with direct ownership ties to the English Premier League -- joining the Rapids." Club Owner Stan Kroenke also owns Arsenal. Hinchey: "This continues to show the long-term success of MLS. And I think it will help with television rights. It's not just about growing the league, it's about growing the sport" (DENVER POST, 5/24).
EUROPEAN VACATION: In N.Y., Jack Bell reported for the first time since '05, a team from the U.K. "will not ... play a collection of stars from Major League Soccer in the 2013 all-star game." The league "has yet to announce who the opposition will be, but probably will in the next few weeks." It also is unlikely that La Liga club Real Madrid will be the All-Star Game opponent, as the club "is part of the Guinness International Challenge Cup" (NYTIMES.com, 5/21).