During halftime of last night’s MLS All-Star Game — in which the league’s best players were trounced by a club team that finished 7th in the Italian league last season — MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that the league will expand by another four teams, to 24, by the year 2020.
That would just continue the crazy pace that MLS has been on since 2005, when it had only ten teams; NYC F.C. is set to become the league’s 20th team in 2015, meaning the league will keep on adding one team a year (with one year off, maybe) through the end of the decade. Possible expansion targets could include Miami, Atlanta, Sacramento, Orlando, Detroit, Minneapolis, and probably a few others that the AP and I are both forgetting.
This is likely to mean more attempts at stadium deals, which are already burbling under the surface in many of those cities (Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson declared his renewed support for a soccer stadium there earlier this week). On the one hand, the pre-announcement of so much expansion should actually give more leverage to city mayors to drive a harder bargain on stadium deals, since if MLS needs to come up with sites for four more teams, they’re going to have to take pretty much whatever stadiums they can get. On the other hand, city mayors don’t really seem to understand leverage, so it probably won’t matter.
So you thought that this was going to be the last you heard about Elk Grove, California, in this space? Think again, puny human! From News10 (warning, annoying autoplay video, plus misspelling of “Good Morning”):
Elk Grove City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to move forward with acquiring the land to build a new stadium.
The proposal includes looking at building a new sports complex on a 120 acre parcel of land by the partially built Elk Grove Promenade mall. The plan is to build a stadium that would seat as many as 18,000 people. The price tag for that would be about $100 million and would be financed in a combination of bonds and possibly ticket sales, parking, naming rights, lease payments to the ownership group.
Sorry, I forgot the warning for “thinking that bonds and ticket sales are two parallel items, even though one is a way of borrowing money and the other is a way of raising revenues to pay off those debts.”
Elk Grove will apparently consider three sizes of stadiums: a $40 million 8,000-seat minor-league stadium, an $80 million 15,000-seat one, or a $100 million 18,000-seat one. Also, the vote was apparently moved up after dozens of youth soccer players wearing jerseys filed into the hearing room to support the plan. Because that’s just the way that Elk Grove rolls.
If you thought that everybody was already looking to get into the MLS expansion team race, you may need to expand your definition of “everybody.” The latest contender: Sacramento suburb Elk Grove, which according to the Sacramento Bee (paywall in place, but just cancel out before the nag box has loaded and you can read the article fine) “is shooting for a major league goal of building a $100 million soccer stadium filled with 18,000 screaming fans.” The Elk Grove city council “has not identified a revenue source” for building the stadium, writes the Bee, and doesn’t have a site, and doesn’t know whether there’s public support for any of this.
Still, they’re going ahead with exploring the idea, as they “see the proposal as an economic driver and a catalyst to finish construction of the abandoned Elk Grove Promenade mall.” Because surely developers will be all over building a mall once they find out that 18,000 fans, screaming or otherwise, will be driving past 17 times a year. If Elk Grove even ends up getting an MLS franchise, since it’d be in competition for one with Sacramento, along with about a billion other cities.
I have to hand it to MLS, frankly: They’ve managed to take what could have been seen as a disadvantage — they’re not quite popular enough to be considered a major sports league — and turned it into a selling point: By considering pretty much anyone for expansion franchises, regardless of market size, they’re getting all sorts of localities with delusions of grandeur (or at least “economic drivers”) to throw money at soccer-only stadiums. Though they still have a long way to go before they can catch the true pioneers of this strategy.