Owner Bill Edwards is seeking additional investors to bolster a potential Tampa Bay Rowdies MLS push — following the path of other USL teams seeking outside capital in an effort to reach the next level.
This weekend saw Phoenix Rising FC announce an investment from European-based Advantage Sports Union, which has experience in running French Premier Ligue 1 professional soccer team OGC Nice, in an effort to bolster the team’s MLS bid. Sacramento Republic FC has been seeking an outside investor to move its MLS bid forward. And a potential Detroit ownership brought in the Ford family to bolster its MLS expansion bid.
One of the issues dogging a Tampa Bay Rowdies MLS bid: Whether Edwards has the financial wherewithal to both fund an expansion of Al Lang Stadium to MLS standards while at the same time purchasing an expansion team. Add to that some health issues faced by Edwards, and you have the need to bring in additional investors for a Tampa Bay Rowdies MLS bid. It was erroneously reported by SportsBusiness Daily that Edwards was seeking to sell the Rowdies; not so, he says. From the Tampa Bay Times:
“We are looking to put together an ownership group and we have five or six groups talking to us right now,” Edwards said during a telephone interview with the Times. “We are trying to take it to the next level, which is Major League Soccer. But it takes a lot of money to be in MLS.
“I don’t plan on walking away from anything. I’ve poured five years of my life into the Rowdies and look where they’ve come. Why would I walk away?”…
“In order to be in MLS it takes an ownership group, so all we’re doing is trying to put together an ownership group,” Edwards said. “There’s been a high degree of interest from people who want to be part of the ownership group. I would still be involved no matter what league we are in. I’m not running away at all.”
Currently the Rowdies are not under consideration in the next round of MLS expansion, with Cincinnati, Sacramento and Detroit ownership groups in the final round. What Edwards — as well as a Phoenix ownership group — is doing is positioning his market for the next round of MLS expansion, which could be announced before the end of the year.
The Rowdies’ chances of landing an MLS slot were perhaps increased last week when the Tampa Bay Rays announced a preference for an Ybor City new-ballpark location. If the Rays do indeed leave Tropicana Field, it would leave the Rowdies with less competition for the local sporting dollars — and perhaps draw some additional city support for an MLS bid.