Even with all media telling us that the economy is in the toilet, investors with deep pockets are lining up to get on board the MLS gravy train for the upcoming 2011 and beyond expansion. Investors want to get on board because the league is slowly becoming profitable -- if you own your own stadium -- and the expansion fees are a pittance compared to any other major sport.
Today bids in Southern cities Atlanta and Miami were filed with the league and each has little bit different going for it.
On one hand Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank filed his application with the league for a team to play in in the Atlanta metro area. Meanwhile, Spanish giants FC Barcelona want to set up some sort of shop in Miami likely at Florida International University, which just built a new football stadium.
For those that don't know, MLS is expanding next year (2009) to Seattle and then to Philadelphia in 2010. Other candidates for the 2011 wave include St. Louis, Vancouver, Portland, Las Vegas, Montreal and a second New York team.
Personally, no offense to either Atlanta or Miami, but St. Louis and Portland are municipalities that probably "deserve" a team first, based on history. St. Louis has long been a cradle of soccer in the U.S. and even had a thriving pro league during the first half of the 20th century. As for Portland, I'll admit, I'm a mark for the Tibers Army.
Judging from what I see on television, stress televison, Miami has had a tough time supporting pro sports aside from the Dolphins and had a chance with MLS already with the Fusion, who folded in 2001. Then again, with the international cache of the Barcelona name and the Miami nightlife, a new MLS side wouldn't have any trouble attracting washed up stars at the end of their careers looking for some fun.
Atlanta? It's been supportive of the USL Silverbacks, so maybe there's potential. A poll was running 75 percent in favor of supporting an MLS team on the AJC website.
Either way, MLS is getting bigger, but does it have the amount of players and salary structure to support it?