Monday, June 3, 2013

Orlando and Miami in MLS for 2016?

A source with a sports marketing firm in South Florida contacted us with a story on a plan from Major League Soccer (MLS) to bring two "southeast" teams into the league in 2016 as a "packaged deal". Additionally, the source went on to say the discussion solely focused around franchises in Orlando and Miami.

Needless to say, I was skeptical, so I followed up with some questions to the source who went on to say that the Miami franchise would use Florida International University (FIU) Stadium as a temporary home with plans for a dedicated soccer-specific stadium by 2020. They also said Orlando would start play in a soccer-specific stadium in 2016 but would use the Florida Citrus Bowl if there were any funding or construction delays.

I have been covering MLS expansion in Florida for several years now, honestly, reports and "sources" like these reach my inbox on almost a daily basis. The source "claimed" to be present for some of the private meetings David Beckham has had with officials in South Florida. I can't validate that because I don't know when or where the meetings happened this weekend. They could have occurred at a swanky bar on Ocean Drive in South Beach or an IHOP in Boca Raton for all I know.

I reached out to MLS for a comment on the rumor of Orlando and Miami being a packaged deal and joining the league in 2016. Dan Courtemanche, VP of Communications for the league, responded with the following:
"While we are pleased to see strong interest in potential Major League Soccer expansion, we do not have a specific plan yet for adding new teams. We are pleased with the recent addition of New York City FC and will be addressing future expansion in the near future."
MLS is hoping to address future expansion in the near future? That's news to me considering the Commissioner Garber stated the league would be taking a breather for a little while following NYCFC being made official. We know that Orlando City is making a push to have a stadium funding plan in place by July so that's a strong possibility. Additionally, Beckham has been in South Florida since late last week visiting existing stadiums and meeting with local politicians and business groups as he evaluates exercising his $25M purchase option for an expansion franchise.

Regardless of the validity of the rumored story, the possibility of both Orlando and Miami joining MLS during the same season offers an interesting tactile weapon for fighting MLS' damaged history in Florida. The league could enter into the largest market in the state (Miami) while having a natural and established rival (Orlando City) located less than 4 hours up the Florida Turnpike. That distance is roughly the same as Dallas-Houston, Foxboro-Harrison, and Portland/Vancouver-Seattle; a drive-able distance for supporter groups to allow for day trips or overnights.

The idea of a Miami franchise playing at FIU's stadium seems more than reasonable based on the capacity (20,000), modern upgrades, close proximity to downtown Miami (15 miles), and a FIFA-sized pitch already in place. With Miami and most Floridian tax payers still reeling from the $650M Marlins stadium deal, I wouldn't have a problem with FIU being a long term home for the club.

Tips, emails, and rumors on MLS expansion in Miami have ebbed and flowed like the warm waters of Biscayne Bay for the last week. Even with the comment from Courtemanche I would file this news under the definitely maybe category.

24 comments :

  1. I can understand the league wanting to get Beckham invested quickly but it seems that there are 2 paths to take. One is fork out a ton of cash promising to tie the loose ends together and the second is to nail your civic commitments down (ie, buy a stadium), create a supporter base and establish a program. Is MLS interested in creating a solid expansion plan or are they winging it knowing this may be the last increase in teams for awhile.

    Honestly, They are a little too heavy skewing east and if they added 2 more teams (making 24) they would seemingly have to be western conference teams, in addition to moving clubs like SKC and Houston west.

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    1. The population of the country is skewed east, of course the teams are. Supposing the two teams next are Orlando and Miami, you could still put the last two (I say last because I really think 24 teams is the ideal number for the league) in say Atlanta and St. Louis or the Twin Cities. Then you simply reshuffle the conference alignments as has been done in the past and it all works out as well as covering most of the population of the country with local or at least regional teams.

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  2. Its easy adding two teams in the SouthEast makes 22 team, west of the Mississippi west (11) east of the Mississippi (11).. now if they go to 24 teams, at three to the east, one in the west, give west 12, east 12

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  3. Right now, it's 11 in the eastern conference (including nycfc). Add 2 Florida teams that is 13 in the east. SKC and Houston would be candidates to move west to balance it at 11 each. Maybe Minnesota or Saint Louis would be candidates to fill the spots to take it to 24 with one in each conference.

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  4. This is NOT needed and a horrible idea. Two teams in Florida is a mistake. It didn't work before and it won't work now. Talk about the last bit of news I wanted to hear. Orlando is finally starting to be its own city, have its own places to call their own, and FINALLY has a team of its own. I don't want to see it cluttered up with a bunch of plastic fans that use it as an excuse to go see a team from Miami play us. I'm tired of Orlando being used as that kind of a place.

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  5. I live in Port St. Lucie, pretty much half-way twixt Orlando and Miami,
    which is great for me -- about 120 miles north to Orlando and 108 miles south to Miami. Bring it on! And thank you, Orlando, for being "that kind of city," although I have no idea what that means.

    Howard in PSL

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    1. PSL is terrible, nothing to do other that the Rave and Jensen Beach mall...You'll need two MLS teams to occupy your time.

      Sincerely,

      A Morningside Academy alumn.

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  6. This is awesome. This is exactly what needs to happen!

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  7. This is a horrible idea. Florida fans are the worst; go to a Rays or Marlins or (Pre-Lebron) Heat game if you need proof. They only support teams when they're the frontrunner. It's a shame b/c Orlando is a strong club and probably deserves to be in the league more that NYCFC.

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  8. FIU is too far South from Ft Laud. and PBC. FAU would be a far better site for example, which has a brand new, exceptional stadium.

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    1. FAU was absolutely horrible to get out of the other day after the Germany game. If they used that stadium I would never go.

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    2. FIU is too far south. you need something halfway like say, Lockhart right off I95. People from West Palm and Fort Lauderdale will have a hard time going.

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  9. The question is will expansion be 22 or 24. Expansion fees are too important for MLS right now since broadcast fees are limited. Think NHL a decade or so ago, broadcast fees were limited so they went on an expansion binge in the sunbelt and owners all collected expansion fees. The next MLS media contract will be a step forward for soccer in this country but will still pale when compared to the NFL, NBA, MLB and others so expansion money will be the replacement. For everything they have done Orlando deserves the opportunity but like it or not, Miami and Atlanta are much more attractive markets for sponsors, TV, etc.

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    1. I think it will be 24 with ATL and MInnesota (football owners - new stadiums)

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    2. This was relevant when the conversation was only about NFL/NBA/MLB tv deals, but soccer is different. In other words (IMO), few viewers around the rest of the country would be more inclined to watch an MLS tv game just because it was the Atlanta team, than they would be an Orlando team; but they might be more inclined if the Orlando team was powerful and beating up on opponents, and bringing a matchday atmosphere that comes through the broadcast the way the Portland or Seattle atmosphere does. It's different with soccer.

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  10. FROM PRO SOCCER TALK: The New York Cosmos were very busy today, as they announced a new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines in a special press conference in New York City.
    Brazilian legend and Honorary President, Pele, announced the deal as reporters gathered to hear about the future plans for the NASL franchise.
    “This is a big day for the future of the New York Cosmos,” Pelé said. “It’s wonderful to be part of such a pre-eminent soccer family.”
    While club Chairman Seamus O’Brien addressed the media and was bullish on the future of the Cosmos. “When we do get to the top again – and trust me, we will – we will stay there long past my lifetime.”
    But perhaps most intriguing was O’Brien’s comments when asked about MLS. The Chairman revealed that he is in constant dialogue with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and that New York City could handle having three professional soccer teams.
    So that is pretty good news for MLS fans, as previously it was thought the Cosmos and MLS had not been in talks about any potential linkup.
    But can NYC really handle three MLS teams?
    Let’s take London as an example. The metropolitan population is 15 million, New York’s is 18.8 million. London has 13 professional soccer teams, who are all well supported with over nine teams getting crowds of 20,000 plus on average. So New York can surely handle three teams?
    Obviously well all know about the other sports in the US and NYC that affect attendance figures for MLS teams. In London soccer is the main sport, there isn’t much else. So probably not the greatest measuring stick. But the lure of the Cosmos would certainly attract around 20,000 fans every game once they have a permanent home and if they are admitted to MLS.
    Three MLS teams in NYC is feasible. It would be absolutely wonderful to see it happen.
    Hopefully those wheels seem to be in motion with O’Brien and Garber in constant contact.

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    1. Hell no... I have no idea why you'd want that. MLS struggles to reach out to the entire country still. This is the dumbest idea I've ever heard in terms of MLS expansion. Southeast has to be tapped into. NYRB cant even fill a stadium (not our fault they built it in Jersey, that's their stupid mistake) so we'll see how it is with 2 teams in NY first. Personally I think 3 would be a disaster. No sport in our country has 3 teams in a city and this isnt England where the only sport is soccer. These MLS teams will not just have to compete with other MLS teams but they'll have to compete with othere sports franchises. Your fantasy is cool but no way its happening.

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    2. The NYC metro has three teams in hockey: Devils, Islanders, and Rangers.

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  11. Which cities are expansion options for MLS??? Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Antonio, Sacramento have all been heard from. Outside of the glaring hole in the southeastern USA, you would think the Midwest is the next "hole." That said some combination of Orlando/Miami/Atlanta fill two spots. Like Orlando, San Antonio has a good story of success to tell but does MLS need a third Texas team particularly a market that does nothave TV impact? Minnesota and St. Louis help fill the remaining gap on the US map as it relates to MLS teams. Does St. Louis have the proper support though? Atlanta has a lot of cache, well-known owner who happens to own NFL team, top TV market and the home to many US corporations -- Coke, UPS, Home Depot among them.

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    1. Milwaukee would be a very good candidate. Believe it or not, I've only heard good things about their soccer support, but they get skipped over because they're perceived as Hardcore GB Packers territory.

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    2. I sometimes wonder why there's never a Milwaukee version of the argument "all Hispanics love soccer, so soccer will do great in markets with large Hispanic populations," which presumably would be, "all Germans love soccer, so soccer will do well in Milwaukee because of its large German-American heritage."

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  12. It makes all the sense in the world on paper, but they are moving WAY too fast on Miami.

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  13. the owner of the NPSL Miami franchise apparently has been asking Becks about using them as a platform for bigger things...

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  14. While Orlando has been doing this right in building up as a soccer market slowly (from Central Florida Kraze to its third year with Orlando City in the USL Pro League), Miami will fail from Day 1. Why? Because that poor excuse for a sport market has 3 favorite teams: 1. Dolphins 2. Hurricanes 3. Whoever is winning. Now it's the Heat, and the Panthers and Marlins are afterthoughts. When one gets good, the other 2 suffer. Put the other team in Atlanta or the upper Midwest, I hadn't even thought about the German population of the Greater Milwaukee area.

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