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MLS Expansion: City Power Rankings

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Where will MLS go next? Lets rank the candidates.

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MLS: LAFC Groundbreaking Ceremony Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a little slower around this site for the last week while FC Dallas was off. We thought we’d do a couple different things to start the week out, beginning with a look at the Major League Soccer expansion field.

MLS is looking to move from 22 teams in 2017 to 28 teams by who knows when really. My gut tells me the league will eventually top out at 30 but until then we know there is a big race to join the upcoming expansion teams in Atlanta, LA, and Minnesota.

So I’ve put together a little Power Rankings on the matter. Here are my top ten cities for expansion as of October 2016. Naturally a lot can and will change with this over time but its always fun to discuss where MLS could and should go next.

1. Sacramento

The group in the California capital continues to lead the list in my mind. I still have a sneaking suspicion that they could leap-frog Miami into the number 24 slot for the league but at best I do think they’re a lock to be the 25th team in MLS. They’ve punched just about every box that MLS laid out in front of them over the last year and have really fallen into the only a matter of “when” instead of “if” on their expansion announcement.

Things going for them: Solid ownership group, strong stadium plan (that is also backed by the local government), great fanbase in the USL

When will we see them in MLS: My best guess is by 2019 if they don’t pass up Miami. If they do pass Miami, then 2018 with LAFC.

2. Miami

When Don Garber was asked back at the US Open Cup final about expansion, he didn’t outright commit to anything strong in Miami. He said he wasn’t at a place of being upset over where David Beckham and his group are with getting a stadium in place but he did allude to that he wasn’t thrilled with the lack of process either. Like I said above, they don’t feel like a total lock for slot number 24.

Things going for them: Commitment from MLS when a stadium deal is in place, Beckham cashing in on being able to own a team

When will we see them in MLS: If things actually do go to plan, 2018. If not, 2020 seems about right.

3. Detroit

NBA owners and Michigan natives Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores have unveiled a $1 billion plan to bring MLS to Detroit back in April. Since then things have gone a bit quiet but that may not be a bad thing. I’m sure it is just a matter of time before some land is acquired and more details are released.

What has always intrigued me about Detroit isn’t the fact that they once were a World Cup location in 1994, but more so that they would be a good ‘dot on the map’ that helps build up more rivalries in the league.

Things going for them: Big money owners, a solid sports market

When will we see them in MLS: Best guess right now, 2020.

4. St. Louis

MLS knows the time is now to get into this market. The NFL Rams moved out to LA and there is a big opportunity to cash in on a sports-crazed city like St. Louis. I will keep mentioning the ‘dots on the map’ phrase throughout this but that is because St. Louis would be a huge get in that sense for MLS. Connecting markets like KC and Chicago in terms of building up rivalries is huge.

The problem is lately there hasn’t been a ton of noise in that city from any prospective owners. Then there is the whole stadium situation that would have to be addressed.

Things going for them: Location, history

When will we see them in MLS: Best guess right now, 2020.

5. Cincinnati

I’ll admit, before the start of 2016 I wouldn’t have even considered this market for MLS but the way things have gone in the USL after one season has a very similar feeling that Orlando and Sacramento had going for them. We know Orlando made it to MLS and Sacramento seem poised to do the same. MLS is also planning on visiting this market at the end of next month, which is easy a positive sign.

Things going for them: Commitment to youth and facilities, large fanbase already establishing.

6. San Antonio

We all know of their expandable stadium that is there in the Alamo City. That much is not going to change anytime soon but in a way they’ve been passed up left and right this year because of how quiet things have gotten in that market.

7. San Diego

MLS has begun surveying the market, which is always intriguing to see. I know people are probably already tired of seeing this many Californian clubs in one league but honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see MLS go after this market.

8. Phoenix

Earlier in the year I wouldn’t have had this market on the top ten but new USL owners have me thinking a little differently.

9. Nashville

They finally have a USL team coming next year into this market, and their owners are already discussing plans for MLS.

10. North Carolina

So this is the one area that could be huge for the league if done right. The question always comes down to either doing Raleigh or Charlotte. My gut says Charlotte would be a better spot as it would connect to Atlanta and DC on the MLS map. Right now this market is a long shot in my mind for a number of reasons (mostly political).

Missing the cut: Austin, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas