While talk of MLS expansion these days has centered around cities ready to join the league in short order, there's another city interested in making a case for the long term: Charleston, South Carolina.
The owner of the Charleston Battery said in a recent interview with the team's supporters group that he hopes one day the team can make the jump from the lower-tier USL to MLS.
"We want to take the Battery as high as we can and we won't put a limit on the possibilities,'' Battery owner Eric Bowman said in the interview. "The long-term goal is to turn Charleston into an MLS city. Obviously that's a long way off, but we think it's attainable."
"There's talk of MLS expanding to Saint Louis, Sacramento, San Antonio etc. So the jump from USL to MLS is within our reach. If MLS wants to be in a particular market, the league will find a way to make it happen. Our job is to turn Charleston into a market that MLS wants to expand to. If we can leverage the sport's growing popularity nationally and the dedicated local fan base that's been here from the start with the improvements we're making on the field and in the stadium, we'll get there."
The Battery, founded in 1993, are, along with the Richmond Kickers of the USL, the oldest continuously operated professional soccer club in the US. Bowman bought the club from founder Tony Bakker this year.
With Bowman's remarks, Charleston has been added to a growing list of cities in line for a spot in MLS's expansion plans.
A group backing a St. Louis bid announced their intention to vie for an expansion spot in February. The Sacramento Republic have long made a compelling case, with MLS Commissioner Don Garber visiting the California state capital again in April. San Antonio bolstered their bid with support from the San Antonio Spurs. Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati has caught attention from MLS with their strong attendance in their debut season with USL this year and Detroit entered the MLS expansion discussion in April with plans for an MLS stadium backed by a high-powered ownership group.