As the MLS continues to explore expansion, commissioner Don Garber says that prospective ownership groups are crucial in the process.
The landscape for MLS expansion efforts is getting more and more competitive. Markets such as Nashville and St. Louis are upping their pushes, while locations such as Cincinnati, Sacramento, and others are trying to build on continual success in the lower divisions of U.S. soccer. In the past week alone the picture has become all the more intriguing, with North Carolina FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies unveiling campaigns. Given those developments, it is safe to say that MLS expansion will be a major story going into the new year. (As an aside, this will be analyzed in further detail in our December MLS expansion odds piece that is to be published this afternoon.)
These developments have left Garber and the MLS with numerous options to consider. Over time, it stands reason that some efforts will fade while other bids will ultimately miss out or fall short in some key details.
During an extensive Q&A with ESPN FC, Garber was asked what the MLS is seeking in prospective expansion markets. In broad terms, the commissioner said that the vision of prospective ownership groups–in areas such as the future of the league and stadium proposals–is crucial to any bid. More from ESPN FC:
Nothing has changed from the very beginning. The most important quality that we are looking for in any market, is a committed owner or ownership group that has a passion for our sport, a deep belief in our league and the resources to be able to invest in infrastructure and player development and marketing and brand building and help be the pied piper of the sport in their respective market.
It goes from there to ensuring that we have a market that has either a history of supporting the game or has shown real energy with a minor-league club. Cincinnati would be a good example of that. Then thirdly is a comprehensive stadium plan that will ensure the club is able to have a proper home for their fans and players and can serve as a home base for the sport in the community.
As it relates to Cincinnati, Garber visited the city in November. During his visit, he praised FC Cincinnati’s ownership group and its efforts during the organization’s debut season at Nippert Stadium in the USL. However, like many cities in the expansion process, Cincinnati will have to work to develop a stadium solution, as Nippert Stadium is unlikely to be a long-term home for an MLS franchise.
Along with expansion, Garber touches on some other stories in his interview with ESPN FC, including the futures of the NASL and USL, a recent report on promotion and relegation, and more.
Image courtesy FC Cincinnati.