NEW YORK – The rivalries of the Pacific Northwest have made headlines in MLS over recent years, but they could have some competition in a few years.
From the Sun Belt.
After the recent announcement of Orlando City Soccer Club as the 21st expansion club in Major League Soccer, two more Southeast cities – Atlanta and Miami – are officially in the race to become the league's next expansion teams, according to Commissioner Don Garber.
In his annual State of the League address conducted from Google's NYC headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, the MLS Commissioner for the first time elaborated on both expansion bids, indicating the league was "making progress" in discussions with potential ownership groups.
Former MLS superstar David Beckham and his business partner Simon Fuller are leading the expansion charge in Miami and should they come up with "a great facility plan and another economic partner," Garber believes "we could have a formula for success."
"There’s a lot of work that needs to happen," Garber said. "We can’t go to Miami without the right stadium solution. David understands that. The city understands that. That’s an indisputable fact. We can’t have different rules in Miami than we have in any other city.
"We want to do as much as we can to work with David and Simon Fuller to get something done as quickly as we can."
As far as Atlanta, Garber revealed that the league is in talks with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank on "downsizing technology" that could be used with the new 65,000-seat NFL stadium being constructed ahead of the 2017 NFL season.
"We think it will be unique and the only one of its kind anywhere in the world," Garber said of the technology. "We’ll need to continue to work hard with Atlanta to see if this whole project makes sense for them. But I’m encouraged by the discussions and hope to be able to finalize something."
Although Garber refrained from providing a firm timeline on either of the two expansion bids, he did reveal some of the cities that could be next in line for consideration, singling out Minneapolis, San Antonio, Austin and St. Louis.
But for any of those cities to have a realistic shot, they'll need a plan for a downtown stadium.
"The downtown formula has been working for us and it’s hard to imagine that we would go into a market where we don’t have that scenario," Garber said. "It’s not an absolute, but whether it’s Minneapolis, or St. Louis, or Austin or San Antonio.
"All the potential stadium sites – and I say potential because we haven’t even begun to look deeply in any of those markets – all of them would be within the urban core."