MLS officials said that team owners "discussed several competing expansion proposals" on Thursday and came away with a "glowing impression of the St. Louis bid," according to David Hunn of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. MLS officials and owners said that a vote on the St. Louis bid is "a ways off." At least a half dozen cities are "competing to win two coveted franchises." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that picking expansion cities and "growing the 26-team league to 28 could take as long as another year." The next step for the St. Louis group will "land it in front of the league expansion committee, which the league is reorganizing now." The expansion committee has in the past "recommended finalists who then present to the full league ownership." It also has "picked recent team winners Nashville and Cincinnati." League officials and owners continued to "call St. Louis’ bid a front-runner" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 12/14).
ROOM TO GROW: The MLS BOG voted in favor of having its expansion committee analyze if the league should expand beyond 28 teams, an analysis that is expected to begin Jan. 1. Meeting Thursday in N.Y., the group discussed and reviewed potential expansion markets, as well as the progress being made in Austin and Columbus. However, nothing was formalized regarding the league’s next round of expansion. MLS Commissioner Don Garber recently said he “envisions the league growing” beyond 28 teams. The BOG also called for an analysis of local partnerships between teams and sports betting companies, to be conducted by one of its board-level business ventures committees. League sources have said that teams have already begun some of those conversations, and it is expected the league will approve the category ahead of the '19 season. MLS currently prohibits sports betting sponsorships (Ian Thomas, THE DAILY).
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday said that he "wants more games to be played in Latin America" in the coming years, according to Eric Gomez of ESPN.com. Silver, in attendance for Magic-Bulls at the 22,300-seat Arena Ciudad de Mexico, was complimentary of the building and said that he "hoped other, similar venues would pop up in other parts of the Americas." He added that games in Mexico City "feel like 'a regular NBA game'" held in the U.S. or Canada. Outside of Mexico, the NBA has "never held a regular-season game in Latin America." Silver said that venues similar to Arena Ciudad de Mexico "would have to be completed elsewhere in order to provide fans with an experience consistent with the league's ideals." Despite an earlier announcement Thursday regarding a new TV contract with Televisa, "no mention was made about holding games in Mexico City beyond this season." However, Silver was "optimistic about the possibility." He said, "We're committed to come back to Mexico for many years to come." He also noted talks between league and the city's government have been "very positive" (ESPN.com, 12/14). Silver prior to Thursday's game appeared on WSCR-AM with Bulls play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky, and said the league has been asked about putting a team in Mexico City, but "we're not ready to do that yet." He said down the road, that is "something we clearly will continue to look at." Silver said putting a G League team there would be a "great next step," and would give the league the "opportunity to understand how the altitude is going to effect the players, what it would be like for players to live in Mexico City" (WSCR-AM, 12/13).
NHL attendance this season "is down, in some markets significantly, for the franchises that most drive revenues for the league," according to Ken Campbell of THE HOCKEY NEWS. There was a time when sellouts in for the Canadiens, Flames, Rangers and Canucks, and near-sellouts for the Senators were as "routine as the sun rising and setting, but that is not the case anymore." The Canadiens have had "tickets available for seven of their 16 home games this season." The Flames have "not sold out" once this season. The Rangers have sold out MSG "just once, as have the Canucks in Rogers Arena." The Senators are a "nightmare that is getting worse." Things are looking up for the Avalanche, as they are "attracting more than 2,000 fans per game than this time last year." The Hurricanes and Coyotes are "up significantly as well, coming in with the second- and third-highest increases over last season." But those are markets where ticket prices are "lower and there tend to be more free tickets." In big markets, things are "either stagnant or dropping." In fact, in Canadian markets, there is "not a single team that is attracting more fans." The Maple Leafs, Oilers and Jets are "selling out every game, so the only way to grow ticket revenues there are to raise prices." Meanwhile, Campbell noted in terms of ticket revenue, the league is "actually up" 3%, largely because of an average rise of 3.9% in prices (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 12/13).