With MLS seeking to expand to 24 teams by 2015 or 2016, there are multiple ownership groups seeking to fill one of three perceived expansion slots. With 19 teams now and Orlando City and New York City FC set to begin play in 2014, MLS officials are taking about expansion and new stadiums with groups from several cities.
Including, recently, San Antonio, where Commissioner Don Garber met with Mayor Julián Castro and team owner Gordon Hartman about the city, the Scorpions, facilities and more. The Scorpions have since hosted FC Dallas in a high-profile match designed to show local support for MLS, and there are plenty of advocates for the San Antonio Scorpions to move up to MLS:
The Scorpions are unique in pro sports. The team’s motto is “Soccer for a Cause,” and profits are funneled to Morgan’s Wonderland, a theme park named after Hartman’s daughter that serves the special-needs community.
Hartman has said he doesn’t care what league the Scorpions play in as long as Morgan’s Wonderland is supported. Last year, the team’s second season in the North American Soccer League, which is a rung below MLS, the Scorpions delivered more than $660,000 to Morgan’s Wonderland.
While there’s no doubt San Antonio is a large-enough market for MLS, there are some facility issues. Toyota Field seats 8,500 and is designed to be expanded to 18,500 — the minimum size MLS wants to see for a stadium. Hartman already spent $40 million on Toyota Field and may seek city assistance for the $35 million to $45 million it would take to expand the stadium and add the bigger-buck amenities — suites, wide concourses, larger locker rooms, upgraded concessions — expected in an MLS stadium.
And, of course, there may not be an immediate slot for San Antonio. It’s widely assumed that Atlanta and Miami are first in line to receive expansion franchises, with Minnesota not far behind. And Austin is also eyed as a potential expansion area. Something bad would need to happen in one of those markets for San Antonio to even be in the hunt for an MLS franchise — which is why the element of luck is involved.