On Tuesday, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that 12 cities have submitted applications for franchise expansion. Prospective owners from Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg all expressed interest in MLS expansion.
One Wednesday, MLS President Mark Abbott hosted a media teleconference to address additional aspects of the expansion process. While the league has reviewed several bids, they have not looked at all of them in their entirety. MLS will review each city’s expansion documents over the next few weeks, clarify any questions and then forward to the expansion committee in the upcoming months. Columbus Crew SC owner Andrew Precourt sits on that expansion committee and it will be interesting to hear his thoughts on the Cincinnati bid.
Many topics were covered over the course of the 45 minute teleconference, but we will give you some quick bullet points. These are not quotes of Mark Abbott, but will convey what was discussed.
- Q: Brian Straus of SI.com asked why the Sacramento bid was submitted without Republic FC? A: Mr. Abbott stated that both the group led by investor Kevin Nagle & the group led by SAC founder Warren Smith are working together to unify on the city’s bid. Currently Republic FC are not included in the MLS application.
- Q: How is geography in relation to current MLS clubs factored into the expansion process? A: Abbott commented that geography can work two ways. They want to grow the footprint of the league but they also heavily value the rivalries geography can create.
- Q: How far do stadium plans have to be to be considered for expansion? A: We realize that all plans aren’t complete yet. Teams will get to supplement their applications over time. To be considered for expansion, each city must have a finalized stadium plan. Each stadium plan must have a site, government approval and approved financing.
- Q: What do you say to groups that feel this process was rushed? A: This was not the first step in the process. We have spoken with many of these groups before we released the deadline in December.
- Q: What is the perceived timeline for the St. Louis bid to be considered for the 2020 applications? A: It is the league understanding that the vote in April must be approved if they are to be able to get the stadium completed in time.
- Q: Indy Eleven said that MLS reached out to them to submit a bid. What specifically made you reach out to them? A: Abbott stated that they are supportive of Indy’s desire, BUT WE DID NOT ENCOURAGE THEM TO BID. Abbott also didn’t like that characterization of their comments, but did commend them for their history and that they were able to complete the application.
- Q: Laurel Pfahler asked if FC Cincinnati was behind on the process since they had stated that they wanted to remain in Nippert? A: Mark Abbott was ambiguous in his answer but stated that “FC Cincinnati is very focused on this.” I took it to mean that they are focused on finding a soccer specific stadium. Abbott commended the work and history of Lindner and GM Jeff Berding. Made it seem something may be in the works.
Not much earth-shattering news was discussed on the call, but all plans seem that they can be improved upon if necessary. FC Cincinnati submitted two books yesterday to MLS President Mark Abbott. One book was about the club and the possible transition to MLS, while the other focused solely on a stadium plan. On Wednesday morning, SI.com’s Brian Straus wrote an article that featured GM Jeff Berding stating, FCC has zeroed in on two potential stadium sites, both of which are in the city’s urban core that stretches connects the river, downtown, Over-the-Rhine and UC. This is a huge update from previous discussions. I am sure there will be more to follow on the FC Cincinnati bid.
TUNE INTO TONIGHT’S SHOW AND CALL 513-399-KICK (5425) TO DISCUSS THE EXPANSION APPLICATION.