Detroit Prepares to Present MLS Expansion Bid

Ford Field MLS

One of four finalists for two MLS expansion slots, Detroit is preparing to present a pitch that includes the use of Ford Field for soccer action. 

Detroit’s bid has long been an intriguing one, going back to when Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores were pursuing a downtown site for the construction of a new soccer-specific stadium. The pair spent considerable time pitching a plan to obtain the site, currently occupied by an unfinished jail, from Wayne County and in turn use it for a new stadium that would house an expansion franchise and anchor a larger development.

That plan, however, changed last month, when it was announced that Detroit’s MLS expansion bid would instead include the use of Ford Field, the current downtown home of the NFL’s Lions. As part of the plan, Ford Field would be upgraded to accommodate MLS, while the wealthy Ford family–owner of the Lions–would be brought into MLS circles.

Having the Fords, along with Gilbert and Gores–owners of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, respectively–added to its ownership ranks could be an intriguing prospect for MLS. However, it remains to be seen how the league will receive the planned use of Ford Field, particularly with new soccer-specific stadium proposals included in the bids from CincinnatiNashville, and Sacramento. More from The Detroit Free Press:

[Fox soccer analyst Alexi Lalas] said a Gilbert-Gores-Ford team is powerful. But he also said the decision to pivot away from building a soccer-specific stadium at the Wayne County jail site could hurt the bid.

The MLS prefers the intimacy of soccer-specific stadiums, a concept the Detroit bid tossed aside when the Ford family joined the fray last month and offered Ford Field as the home venue.

Ford Field, which is home to the NFL’s Detroit Lions, seats more than 65,000 patrons. The average attendance in MLS in 2016 was a little more than 21,000.

“I think you need to ‘Wow’ these people,” Lalas said of Wednesday’s presentation. “I don’t think you can underestimate the potential negative impact of the stadium decision.

Two out of the four bids will be chosen for an MLS expansion spot, with representatives from all four bids making formal presentations to MLS commissioner Don Garber and the league’s expansion committee on December 6 in New York. An announcement is expected later in the month.

Rendering courtesy Rossetti.

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