MLS has announced plans to expand to 18 teams by 2011 and is accepting applications until Oct. 15 for another two new teams to join the league. Seattle Sounders FC will join next season, and a Philadelphia franchise will debut the following year. Drew Hansen takes a look at some possible destinations.
St. Louis - This city rich with soccer history finished as runner-up to Philadelphia for the 2010 franchise. St. Louis had its own league in the early 20th century, and many of the first U.S. national team players came from its immigrant neighborhoods. The Saint Louis University men’s team has won a record 10 national titles. Earlier this month, a proposal for a soccer-specific stadium in the suburb of Collinsville, Ill., came forward and a Women’s Professional Soccer club will debut in the city in the spring. MLS officials also have said they would like a bigger presence in the Midwest.
Portland, Ore. - The Timbers of the United Soccer Leagues have a strong and passionate fan base. Owner Merritt Paulson already has applied for an expansion franchise. Any new club would play in PGE Park in downtown Portland - a great location but the stadium holds less than 20,000. Plans were introduced Thursday to renovate the park, which should put the city on the right path to gaining a team.
Atlanta - The southeastern United States has been without an MLS team since its two Florida franchises - the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion - folded in 2001. The Atlanta Silverbacks of the USL play in a new soccer specific stadium in a suburban community, giving Atlanta a possible edge over cities lacking modern facilities. Still, the South seems an unlikely destination for MLS.
Montreal - This Canadian city with a strong international presence seems ripe for an MLS franchise. The Montreal Impact are one of the stronger USL clubs and are well supported by fans and local businesses (very much the opposite of the old Expos in baseball). Toronto FC also has been well supported since it joined MLS in 2007. The atmosphere may be right in Montreal, but the cold-weather city is fairly isolated from the rest of the league.
New York - The league would love nothing more than a club that plays within this city. The Red Bulls play in New Jersey and will have a new soccer venue next season in Harrison, N.J. If the right proposal comes forward that would put a team in the five boroughs (except maybe Staten Island), the league probably would jump right on board.
Las Vegas - This city seems to be a player in just about every sports league that plans on expanding. There are enough businesses and a booming population to back up any team. However, the brutally warm weather in Vegas suggests it would make an unlikely stop for the league, and an indoor stadium probably wouldn’t fly too well with players.
Vancouver - Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, a favorite son of this Canadian city, is a huge soccer nut. His brother, Martin, plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL. Steve Nash recently became part owner of the team and has joined the effort to get the club promoted to MLS status. The biggest hurdle for the city is upgrading its aging B.C. Place Stadium, Canada’s version of the Metrodome.
GOAL OF THE WEEK
Bologna’s Francesco Valiani vs. AC Milan
AC Milan couldn’t get off to a winning start in its domestic season thanks to a laser of a goal from Valiani. With 10 minutes to play, the midfielder raced to meet a weighted pass from 20 yards out and pounded it into the top left corner of the goal. The score gave the recently promoted Bologna club an upset victory and ruined Ronaldinho’s home debut with Milan.
See the match highlights at: YouTube
TRANSFER OF THE WEEK
Robinho to Manchester City
After it looked like the Brazilian striker was headed to Chelsea, Manchester City’s new ownership group swooped in and signed Robinho to a record transfer fee from Real Madrid. The moody forward had fallen out of favor with management in Madrid and forced a move to the English Premier League. The diminutive attacking player had shown his flair with the ball and great pace in Spain, but it will be interesting to see how he holds up in the much more physical EPL.