…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.
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Our soon to be local soccer team, Sacramento Republic FC, today announced two separate one-year affiliate agreements with the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer (MLS).
The Timbers and Earthquakes annually will each loan a minimum of two players to Republic FC for the entire USL PRO season plus Timbers Academy and Timbers U-23s assistant, Ron Underwood, will serve as an assistant coach.
“We are excited to partner with the Timbers and Earthquakes in an effort to develop talent on the field, emulate each club’s business success and to entertain our fans with the high quality talent from each club,” said Warren Smith, president of Sacramento Republic FC. “Our organization is twice blessed with the ability to learn from not one, but two MLS clubs, their experienced operating teams and engaged, passionate supporters. Each affiliate agreement provides an important part of our efforts to provide Sacramento Republic FC, as well as the entire Sacramento region, one of the most talented USL PRO clubs in the league and a MLS vision for our community.”
The next major step for the team is the January 31st meeting of the Cal Expo board of directors where they will discuss plans for the 8,000 seat temporary stadium to be built in the southwest of the property.
“We still think we will break ground in late February,” Smith said. “We can build it in 60 days but that doesn’t allow for any delays at all.”
Should the facility not be ready for the start of the season, the team is expected to play at Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College.
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The Sacramento Business Journal reports that this Wednesday the Elk Grove City Council will be asked to begin identifying up to 120 acres of land that could be purchased for construction of pro soccer stadium.
On the one hand, this is a great long term development for soccer in the area but the goal of the group behind it, Northern California Soccer LLC, is to bring in a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise.
A noble cause but something of a pipe dream – something akin to thinking that just because you build a racetrack, you’re going to get a NASCAR race. MLS wants expansion cities with a fan base that have shown they are willing to PAY to see soccer – as shown by the likes of Seattle and Portland – not just somewhere that has a lot of kids that PLAY soccer.
The current second-tier North American Soccer League (NASL) was also mentioned in the story, which would make more sense for Elk Grove, but given the recent co-operation agreement between MLS and third-tier United Soccer League (USL) Pro, it leaves the future prospects for the NASL on a shaky footing.
The Elk Grove plan also seems to be at odds with Warren Smith and partners, who have already lined up a USL Pro franchise for Sacramento and have chosen to play at Hughes Stadium starting in 2014. This is a college athletics venue not conducive to soccer and to thrive, the team would need a soccer specific stadium sometime in the near future.
So, we have one group building a team and no stadium. Another group building a stadium with no team.
There are plenty of soccer playing 5th graders in Elk Grove who could work out a logical solution…