Would San Francisco or Oakland Support Bay Area MLS Team?


With a strong soccer scene already in place, some wonder whether a market such as San Francisco or Oakland would become home to another Bay Area MLS team.

There have been some interesting developments for professional soccer in the Bay Area in recent years. While the San Francisco Deltas (NASL) played just one season at Kezar Stadium before folding, the San Jose Earthquakes are a steady draw at Avaya Stadium and support for the sport through measures such as TV ratings remains strong. Attempts are also taking shape to bring more clubs to the region, including developer Mark Hall’s pitch for Division II USL team and stadium in Concord as well as the ongoing push by Oakland Roots to bring a higher level of soccer to the city.

Some of those factors, combined with the population and demographics for the region, would seem to suggest that another Bay Area MLS team could be a feasible option. However, there are plenty of uncertainties behind that scenario. In a recent story that took a close look at the issue, the San Francisco Examiner found that some hurdles for another MLS club exist while officials in both Oakland and San Francisco would want to consider the economic implications of an MLS team and stadium:

There are hurdles. The San Jose Earthquakes —as a founding MLS team — hold exclusive territorial rights for the Bay Area, according to several people with extensive knowledge of the region. The Earthquakes would need to cede territory for an expansion team, unless MLS forces the issue through an owner vote. Beyond that, Oakland A’s owner John Fischer holds stakes in the Earthquakes, and isn’t likely to want another club to enter the market….

Politicians in San Francisco and Oakland told the Examiner they were open to bringing an MLS team to their cities, though they said land scarcity was a major issue and emphasized the need for further economic research.

“It’s exciting to think that Oakland could have a professional soccer team given the growth of the sport in the U.S.,” said Jose Corona, the City of Oakland’s director of equity and strategic partnerships. “I’ve seen now living here in Oakland for the past three World Cups … how people get excited about it, as a sport I think it’s great that they’re considering Oakland for a site for a professional soccer team.”

Oakland would seem to have an opening for MLS, given that its sports scene is in a state of flux, with the Raiders’ (NFL) and Golden State Warriors’ (NBA) set to move in coming years to Las Vegas and San Francisco, respectively. However, MLB’s Oakland A’s are currently evaluating sites in the city for a new ballpark, and it would seem that Oakland officials would want more certainty surrounding that situation before delving deeply into an MLS effort. San Francisco, meanwhile, would have several factors to determine, including whether MLS could fit into a sports scene that already features MLB’s Giants and the NFL’s 49ers (who play in Santa Clara), and will expand to the NBA once the Warriors open the Chase Center in 2019. It would also remain to be seen how funding would take place in either city, and whether an ideal site could be secured.

Still, the soccer scene in the Bay Area is already strong, and it appears poised for future growth at the professional level with or without MLS.

Image courtesy Avaya Stadium.

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August Publications