The past few weeks have been surprisingly busy in the world of MLS expansion. MLS commissioner Don Garber announced that Sacramento and St. Louis were top priorities while Detroit, San Deigo, San Antonio, and Austin (in that order) are also on the list of potential cities the league would like to have a footprint in.
Nothing about Sacramento or St. Louis being all-but-done is surprising. Despite its close proximity to current MLS club San Jose, the northern California USL club has shown it can consistently draw a crowd while also garnering local government and investor support. St. Louis has historically been a hotbed of youth soccer talent and its central location provides not only a great rivalry with Sporting KC, but also an easier trip for clubs on either coast.
What caught just about everyone off guard was how quickly Detroit escalated into the picture. Businessmen Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores seem to be in advanced talks with MLS, holding a (noticeably secretive) press conference detailing potential stadium plans.
Criticism of the plan has been very easy to find on social media. While Detroit is the largest market without an MLS footprint, it’s also an area that is still recovering from the economic recession and decimation of the American auto industry. Accusations of the plan being predatory on a city that declared bankruptcy in 2013 are coupled with support of Detroit City FC, a community owned NPSL club that has gained a wide audience within the city.
Many fans, including a vocal part of the Northern Guard Supporters group, are rabidly opposed to bringing MLS to the city. This is likely a big reason that the press conference was held in a secret location, without fans, and without a live stream.
Thursday, MLS expansion news got even murkier as underwear model David Beckham partnered with hair model Mark Davis to promote a new stadium in Las Vegas. The proposed stadium would house Davis’ soon-to-be homeless Oakland Raiders franchise. Beckham, part-owner of the ever-delayed Miami MLS franchise, was on hand to make the argument that the stadium could also increase Las Vegas’ chances of landing an MLS franchise along with other soccer related things.
— Chris Maathuis (@sports8) April 28, 2016
While the Las Vegas news isn’t condoned by MLS or Don Garber (that we know of) it’s still worrying to San Antonio fans to see an owner pushing the league in yet another city that doesn’t have the Alamo. It’s especially curious timing with the Qatari investors Beckham had originally partnered with to bring a new stadium and team to Miami backing out a few days earlier.
For now, San Antonio is left in the dark. We don’t know where we stand in MLS expansion. We don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes with Spurs Sports and Entertainment.
But what we do know is that SS&E did not lease Toyota Field with the intention of staying in USL. The Spurs and SAFC parent organization wants MLS and have been clear about it from the start. Garber has seen Toyota Field when it was home to the Scorpions. This paired with the fact that SS&E do things behind the scenes should relieve a lot of disappointment that may have been felt about the perception of SAFC “falling behind” other cities.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I doubt any expansion franchises will be announced before 2018 unless Sacramento needs to step up to fill the void left by Miami. All we know is that LAFC, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Miami are going to happen. Even though Sacramento “deserves it” and St. Louis and Detroit look to have an edge on San Antonio at the moment, one thing this week has shown us is that perception can change in a matter of minutes when it comes to all this hypothetical expansion talk.
If I can get on a soapbox for a moment, try to drown out a lot of the expansion talk. MLS wants a bidding war and they’re doing a great job of creating one so far. There will probably be another one of these earth-shattering announcements coming out of San Diego soon. When it comes to MLS expansion, trust the Spurs. If anyone can bring it to San Antonio, it’s them.
In the mean time, enjoy what we have. San Antonio FC is a club made up of great guys who are very good at their job. With the second home game falling on the night of a Spurs playoff game, now is the time to show San Antonio can support two professional franchises by filling Toyota Field. There are still some tickets available, so I hope you grab a friend or 5 and meet us at the stadium on Saturday.
We have something special. Lets enjoy it.