A comprehensive breakdown of available cities for the 20th MLS team

MLS has come a long way from the early days, and a host of cities would love to join the growing league. Goal.com breaks down the available cities.
Earlier this year, Major League commissioner Don Garber spoke about the intentions of adding a 20th franchise to Major League Soccer. Garber mentioned the lack of teams in the Southeast, and that the league only has a handful in the Midwest. While MLS has had a steady and consistent increase in teams over the last five years, having added seven during that time, Garber states the plan is for the league to eventually go beyond 20.

Since Montreal was added on as the 19th team, discussions have begun surrounding which city would be named next.

While plenty of cities have submitted their intentions for bringing in MLS locally, there are quite a few stipulations that can have a major impact on where the league is headed next. For example, David Beckham has an option in his contract which allows him to purchase an expansion team once he is retired. To make things more difficult, recent reports suggest an expansion fee for hosting an MLS franchise could be in the range of $75 million to upwards of $100 million.

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Following the geographic pattern of where teams have been added in the last five years, every addition since Houston has been a team that resides in the northern part of the United States, or southern Canada. In the Southeast, there are nine cities that are in the top 50 of the most populated cities in the country, yet the closest team to the region is D.C. United.

Let's take a close look at the possible destinations for the next MLS franchise, and where it is most likely to land. In alphabetical order, of course.

Atlanta, Georgia

Population rank: 40th
Pro Sports franchises: MLB, NBA, NFL
Current soccer franchise: Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League

Positives: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank submitted a bid to bring a franchise to Atlanta in 2008. Since then, possible franchise owners from England have mentioned Atlanta as a city they would be interested in. Atlanta is the largest TV market in the U.S. without an MLS franchise and was one of 18 cities in the U.S. bid to host the 2022 World Cup. The city hosted two MLS preseason games in March 2011, along with international friendlies involving Manchester City, AC Milan, Mexico and Venezuela.

Negatives: Atlanta's NHL representative, the Thrashers, recently relocated to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Interested suitors have experienced financial issues in securing funds for building a soccer-specific stadium.

Robison's Take:
Atlanta will eventually get a franchise, and probably within the next three to five years. Securing a big enough soccer-specific stadium will be essential (WPS club Atlanta Beat plays in a 8,300-capacity stadium).

Baltimore, Maryland

Population rank: 21st
Sports franchises: MLB, NFL
Current soccer franchise: Crystal Palace Baltimore will relaunch in the NASL in 2012

Positives: The state of Maryland recently invested in a $100,000 study to determine the effects of building a soccer-specific stadium in the city. While this was a study to garner the feasibility of possibly relocating D.C. United to Baltimore, there is still a chance they could create a second franchise in the area. Baltimore was one of 18 cities in the U.S. bid to host the 2022 World Cup.



Negatives: Interest has always been minimal due to the close proximity of Washington D.C. and Baltimore. No stadium plans have been announced since the study.

Robison's Take:
Whenever talks concerning an MLS team in Baltimore come up, it always has to do with moving a team there, not creating one. Commissioner Don Garber most recently spoke about these discussions in January 2011.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Population rank: 17th
Sports franchises: NBA, NHL, NFL
Current soccer franchise: Carolina RailHawks of the NASL

Positives: North Carolina is a soccer-heavy area with quite a few standout colleges, such as North Carolina and Wake Forest. Charlotte recently hosted preseason games for the New England Revolution along with 2011 Gold Cup matches. Mexico-Cuba had an attendance of 46,012 earlier this year.

Negatives: Even though it is in the desired Southeast, Charlotte has never really put forward much effort in securing an MLS franchise.

Robison's Take:
Charlotte may eventually host a franchise, but with little interest as of now, that does not look likely any time soon.

Detroit, Michigan

Population rank: 18th
Sports franchises: MLB, NBA, NHL, NFL
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: Since 2000, Detroit has put in the work to attract a team, even launching a website taking deposits on future season tickets. In 2009, the Pontiac Silverdome was purchased by Triple Properties Inc. with the intention of renovating the stadium and possibly hosting soccer events. Recently, the city hosted a friendly match between AC Milan and Panathinaikos, which drew 30,514 in attendance.

Negatives: The city's economy has been steadily dropping since the mid 2000s. Detroit has lost over 25 percent of its population (273,493) since 2000. A recent CONCACAF Gold Cup match between the United States and Canada displayed mediocre results at best, with just 28,209 in attendance.

Robison's Take:
Because Detroit has the funding, and Silverdome owners are anxious to renovate, chances to obtain a franchise are better than they should be for the decaying city.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Population rank: 30th
Sports franchises: None
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: Las Vegas has been hoping to bring a professional sports franchise to the area for years. The city has proposed a deal (worth nearly $2 billion) with the state of Nevada for a three stadium/arena/ballpark complex near Mandalay Bay. Commissioner Garber has been supportive of this idea from the original proposal.

Negatives: Nevada state legislature recently declined the city's offer for the proposed complex.

Robison's Take:
Until the city is able to get the state government to agree to future stadiums, the city will likely remain without a professional franchise.

Miami, Florida

Population rank: 44th
Sports franchises: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: Commissioner Garber was recently in Fort Lauderdale, and spoke with the Miami Ultras, a support group aimed on bringing a franchise to South Florida. Garber was quoted as saying, "We want to be here. It's inconceivable for a pro league not to be south of Washington D.C." Miami is reportedly the city that FC Barcelona and businessman Marcelo Claure targeted in 2009 before the bid was eventually dropped.

Negatives: MLS has been to Miami before. The Miami Fusion were contracted following the 2001 season, after just four years in existence. The city could possibly be competing against Tampa as the sole MLS representative in Florida. Since Barcelona and Claure's offer was dropped in 2009, no new offers have come to fruition.

Robison's Take:
It is obvious Garber wants to return to South Florida. The city just needs to continue to prove it wants it as well.

New York, New York

Population rank: 1st
Sports franchises: MLB (2), NBA, NFL (2), NHL (2)
Current soccer franchise: New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer

Positives: A second team in New York is the leading candidate for the next franchise and has been for a while. It started with New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon wanting to build a stadium near Citi Field. Due to his financial troubles, that is no longer a viable option. However, the recent resurgence of the New York Cosmos leads speculation that MLS will soon be fielding two teams in New York.



Garber has frequently admitted that New York is the top priority for the 20th team, as he believes the instant rivalry created with the Red Bulls will help drive the league forward.

Negatives: There aren't really any negatives now that the city and franchise have the financial support of former Tottenham Hotspur vice-chairman Paul Kemsley. Finding a suitable stadium and location remain obstacles.

Robison's Take:
New York is expected to be the next franchise. It would be an upset if it is not next.

Phoenix, Arizona

Population rank: 6th
Sports franchises: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: Another city that does not have much history in regards to support for an MLS franchise, Phoenix has been flourishing economically over the last decade. Phoenix hosted a preseason match between the then Kansas City Wizards and Arizona Sahuaros in 2010.

Negatives: There doesn't seem to be much interest in the community. Commissioner Garber has mentioned the area whenever expansion talks are mentioned, but has never gotten into specifics.

Robison's Take:
Because the MLS season is played during the summer, a soccer-specific stadium would probably have to include a retractable roof. Once interest is developed, a team in Arizona is certainly not out of the question.

San Antonio, Texas

Population rank: 7th
Sports franchises: NBA
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: San Antonio has tried to work the same route as Philadelphia (with the Sons of Ben) in 2007, creating a support group to help bring a team to the city. The Crocketteers have been working hard towards that since 2010.

MLS was close to expanding to San Antonio nearly six years ago, but the city pulled out in 2005. The mayor at the time, Ed Garza, felt it was not financially beneficial to the city. The city's NASL team, the Scorpions, will be playing in a proposed soccer venue called the STAR (South Texas Area Regional) Soccer Complex, which is set up in terms of fields but the stadium could be an issue, with the only stadium at the complex housing football games for several local high schools.

Negatives: Because the Scorpions do not begin play in the NASL until 2012, and the stadium is still only a proposal, and an immediate move into MLS is doubtful.  

Robison's Take
:
It could take a few more years for the momentum behind San Antonio to secure a team.

San Diego, California

Population rank: 8th
Sports franchises: MLB, NFL
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: San Diego has long been considered one of the cities with the most soccer supporting fans in the country. During the 2010 World Cup, San Diego ranked in the top five TV ratings of all major cities in the U.S. San Diego has hosted many friendlies involving the Mexican national team. A match between Mexico and Argentina in June of 2008 drew over 68,000 in attendance.

Negatives: Stadium development has been a tedious process in San Diego. Qualcomm Stadium is one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL, and no plans are currently in development in order to replace it. No investors have been named in the development of a franchise in the city.

Robison's Take
:
With a large Hispanic population, if San Diego does build a new stadium, Chivas USA is a possible candidate to relocate there.

St. Louis, Missouri

Population rank: 58th
Sports franchises: MLB, NFL, NHL
Current soccer franchise: None

Positives: St. Louis has long been considered one of the leading teams for expansion over the last five years. The city has reportedly gotten very close, but has yet to secure a team. Commissioner Don Garber has been quoted as saying "We really want to be in St. Louis. But in order to be here, we have to be sure that the city's bid is solid." St. Louis Cardinals' MVP first baseman Albert Pujols has worked with the city's soccer program to bring a team to the area.

Negatives: Much like Atlanta, money has been the main issue. A local attorney, Jeff Cooper, has long been working for the city to bring a team to St. Louis. However, he has never had enough financial support in order to secure Garber's confidence.

Robison's Take:
St. Louis can't catch a break when it comes to franchise talks. A natural rivalry with Sporting Kansas City would be immediate, and St. Louis has long been known as being one of the country's most devoted sports cities.

Tampa, Florida

Population rank: 55th
Sports franchises: MLB, NFL, NHL
Current soccer franchise: FC Tampa Bay of the NASL

Positives: Like Miami, MLS left Tampa in 2001. Since then, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have been reborn. The Rowdies, an NASL affiliate, have been renamed FC Tampa Bay. With this, a resurgence of soccer support has taken place in Tampa. The city hosted 2011 Gold Cup matches and drew an attendance of 27,731 for United States-Panama.

Negatives: All Tampa sports franchises have experienced fluctuating attendance numbers. While playing in Raymond James Stadium (capacity: 65,857), the Mutiny never averaged over 14,000 during a season. The NASL club, FC Tampa Bay, has already moved around to two different stadiums since inception two years ago.

Robison's Take:
Miami looks to be the more suitable option for a franchise in Florida. Once FC Tampa Bay gets its stadium situation figured out, the city could once again become a solid option.



Orlando, Florida

Population rank: 79th
Sports franchises: NBA
Current soccer franchise: Orlando City Soccer Club (USL)

Positives: Orlando City just won the USL championship in the past week over Harrisburg City. During the season, the club averaged over 6,000 in attendance, with a high of 11,220 in the championship game. The club actually had a winning record against MLS teams in the preseason, defeating both the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC. Home games are currently played in the Citrus Bowl, which seats 70,000 and recently underwent renovations. Orlando City is owned by director of English Premier League club Stoke City, Phil Rawlins.

Negatives: With the two failed franchises in Florida, it would seem that the MLS is hesitant to return to the Sunshine state. However, that does not seem to be the case for Orlando, which has not fielded team like Tampa and Miami. While the city might not routinely bring 36,000+ to the football stadium like Seattle, Orlando has shown it can provide the numbers Commissioner Garber wants in a new team.

Robison’s take: Orlando has surged past the other cities listed over the past year. With a successful 2011 season, both in play and in attendance, the overwhelming support for the city’s introduction to MLS has escalated the club to the top of the ranks along with New York and St. Louis. This looks like this could be the destination of the next franchise in 2013.