MLS expansion talk has ramped up again in recent days with news coming out of Miami, Minnesota and now St. Louis. The three cities have been linked to joining the league for seemingly years now and with MLS committed to having 24 teams by the end of the decade and 28 beyond that, it is possible these cities will be fielding teams in the future. The news is as follows:
Miami Beckham United (MBU), the ownership group of the proposed Miami MLS team, is reported to be in talks with Paris Saint-Germain and majority shareholder Qatar Sports Investment about financially backing the club and its stadium. The Guardian reports that MBU is seeking a partner for what an insider described as “lightening the load.” Beckham’s MLS contract during his time as a player provided him an option to create an expansion team, however, struggles to find a stadium site in Miami have hindered the project in recent years. According to ESPNFC, MBU is hoping to have a deal in place for a 25,000 seat stadium in Overtown, just northwest of Miami, by the end of this month.
A PSG partnership makes sense for Miami as Beckham finished his career at the Parc des Princes in 2013 and has also gone on the record of wanting to see former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic join the Miami franchise in the future.
Part of a statement by MBU read:
David Beckham, Simon Fuller (Beckhams business partner), and Marcelo Claure (Bolivian businessman) are evaluating these possibilities, with the goal of bringing additional resources and international expertise that draws players, staff and fans from around the world. Any potential partner will share our team’s vision of creating a team that makes Miami and MLS proud
We have already seen the partnership system work in MLS with New York City FC and Manchester City which gave advantages to both teams primarily through financial backing, branding, and the loaning of players such as Shay Facey and Angelino.
Interestingly, in order to join the league, Minnesota United will more than likely have to undergo a name change prior to 2017 when the club is expected to join. As reported by Sports Illustrated, some people in the league don’t like the notion of having three teams sporting the United name, two of which would join in the same season. (Atlanta United being the other.)
Atlanta United is already set to join the league in 2017 and was confirmed as an MLS market in 2014, a year before Minnesota. However, Minnesota has used the United name since early 2013 as compared to Atlanta, which was officially re-named Atlanta United in July of last year. Although they have yet to play and don’t have a full roster, Atlanta is technically an official MLS franchise. Thus, there’s no other option for Minnesota assuming the league continues its stance on not having two “United’s” join the league at once.
A second issue pressing Minnesota is their stadium plans for 2017. Their current project is a privately-financed stadium being constructed on the west side of St. Paul, but it will not be ready until 2018. The two temporary options for the club are the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium and the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. Twins owner Jim Pohlad is a United investor, however due to greater scheduling flexibility, it is likely the club plays at TCF Bank in their inaugural season.
On February 17th, it was announced that a group of the city’s business and sports leaders has formed the MLS2STL Group to advance and explore the option bringing a team to St. Louis. MLS reports the group includes Dave Peacock, chairman of the board of directors for the St. Louis Sports Commission and former president of Anheuser-Busch, Jim Kavanaugh, owner of USL club St. Louis FC, and Bill DeWitt III, president of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, among others.
MLS2STL released a statement saying:
(The group) will work closely with the staff and select members of the St. Louis Sports Commission to conduct baseline market assessments for a potential team owner or owners, including the exploration of stadium sites, funding options and overall viability of the St. Louis region as a home to an MLS expansion franchise.
MLS expansion to St. Louis has been talked about in the past, though with the NFL relocating the Rams to Los Angeles last month, momentum has increased to bring a club to Missouri’s second most populous city. Commissioner Don Garber has also spoken highly of the prospect of a St. Louis based team. Recently, he mentioned that he was pleased to see city leaders becoming involved in efforts to bring an MLS team to the area and also made note that the city is a “tremendous soccer market.”
It is unknown of when or if these cities will be joining MLS in the next few years, however, it’s obvious that the league is rapidly growing and expansion is still just beginning.