MLS monitoring "intriguing" expansion cities after NY

HOUSTON — MLS has been meeting with New York City officials in its continuing efforts to build a stadium for a potential second club in the Big Apple, but on Friday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that the league is keeping its eye on several other potential markets for farther down the road.

Garber met with local media ahead of the opening of the new BBVA Compass Stadium here, and as is often the case, he was asked about possible expansion. Specifically, he addressed recent reports about a possible MLS team in Minneapolis, where the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings have just received the OK to build a new stadium.

“I think Minneapolis is a good market,” Garber said. “We have had discussions with the Vikings in the past. I think it goes on the list.”

The list also includes Miami and Atlanta, two cities with soccer history and growing fanbases for the sport. Miami, in particular, is on MLS’ radar.

“Miami is continuing to intrigue us a bit more than it had been,” Garber said.

That growing intrigue stems from recent news supporting Miami’s soccer bona fides. First, there is the strong interest in the recent news that Chelsea and AC Milan will play a friendly at Sun Life Stadium as part of the World Football Challenge. Second, Garber pointed out that Miami had the third-highest local TV rating for last weekend’s LA Galaxy-New York Red Bulls match on ESPN. Only LA and New York had higher TV ratings.

“We’re going to do in [Miami] what we’ve done in many other markets,” he said. “We’ll continue to schedule international games and continue to get inundated with emails from the Miami Ultras, who want us to bring a team there. We’ll continue to be intrigued by it.”

For now, Garber said, the league remains focused on getting something done in the New York market. But in the future, there are hopes for MLS to have a much larger footprint. 

“This expansion project is a 20-year process,” Garber said. “It’s not a two- or three-year process. I can’t imagine that 20 years from now we’re not in markets like Miami or Minneapolis or [Atlanta]. I think we’ll be in most major markets. We have to be. It’s a big country. The question is: How long will that take?”