…and then there was one.
Expansion spot, that is.
This week Major League Soccer officially introduced Atlanta as the 23rd member of the league, with the Arthur Blank owned team debuting in 2017. They will share a brand new stadium with his NFL Falcons – with the league dropping the requirement for a soccer-specific facility in exchange for an eager and well-heeled owner.
With Orlando City joining play in 2015, this move, together with David Beckham’s Miami franchise solidifies the league’s move into the southeastern USA. It also means that realignment is inevitable, as the addition of New York City in 2015 loads the Eastern Conference with new teams.
It’s a no-brainer that Houston and Kansas City will be moved to the Western Conference, but it also plays well geographically for the groups in Sacramento and San Antonio vying for the final 24th spot in the league.
By 2018 Major League Soccer may look more like this:
New England Revolution
New York City FC
New York Red Bulls
Houston Dynamo (from the Eastern Conference)
Sporting Kansas City (from the Eastern Conference)
Los Angeles SC (formerly Chivas USA)
Real Salt Lake
Sacramento Republic (or San Antonio, or Minnesota)
San Jose Earthquakes
So with expansion to twenty-four teams finally complete, perhaps Don Garber will then turn his attention to building USL-Pro into a true “MLS Second Division” with relegation and promotion between them. Then – and perhaps, only then – will the rest of the world regard the MLS as a “real” soccer league, something I think Garber already knows.