05 October 2011
Posted in MLS
If you watch any recent interview with MLS Commissioner Don Garber, you will undoubtedly hear about expansion. MLS needs to grow beyond 20 teams and make it to 24. Assuming that New York is granted the 20th team and Beckham waives his right to own the 20th team or maybe strikes a deal to exercise it on the 21st team, the question still remains which cities should be the next to receive MLS teams? One scenario is to give NY the 20th team, move Chivas to San Diego - a place that desperately wants a team. And with its strong Mexican following Chivas would make a great fit, grant LA another team and give this one to Beckham.
Add two more teams to the Midwest solidifying a rivalry with Columbus, KC, and Chicago. Two such cities that both deserve and show a desire for teams are St. Louis (once known as the heart of American soccer) and Indianapolis. Another viable option would be Detroit, with the new owners of the Silverdome turning it into a soccer stadium. Then begin to tap into the south starting either with Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, or even an MLS return to Miami. After expanding to 24 teams, it would then be possible for MLS to create a 2nd Division consisting of 12 teams whose buy in to the league would be half that of the 1st division. It would reach markets not tapped after the first expansion including further southeast expansion. This could include: another Pennsylvania team, Arizona, possibly Las Vegas (why not be the first to break into the sin city?), another Canadian team if not multiple ones, Oklahoma City, San Antonio/Austin, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Memphis/Nashville, and New Orleans. Then after successfully setting up the MLS 2nd Division launching a deal with the NASL (12 teams) and USL (24 teams) to allow them to buy into the new system and begin promotion and relegation between the divisions. Along with this expansion and move to promotion and relegation MLS would be able to charge the expected $100 million fee for the next 4 MLS teams given that the 20th team’s fee will be in that neighborhood. For the 2nd division, MLS could charge a fee of $50 million. For the NASL to join the system $25 million per team and a fee of $15 for the USL Pro teams. This would raise $1.6 Billion for MLS that it could then begin to distribute to each league starting with $90 million to the 1st division $30 million to the 2nd division and $15 million each to the NASL and USL. Money would be dispersed according to final combined league standings. Payouts for MLS teams would range from nearly $7 million for 1st and $675,000 for the 24th place team who along with 23rd would be relegated to the 2nd division. Another thing that would need to be adopted would be the end of the salary cap. (Something that is holding the league back from its true potential.)
At a rate of $150 million a year being distributed to the divisions and given a respectable interest rate of 8% a year, the league would be solvent for over 20 years. In that time, the league could grow in both popularity and prestige. Bringing in more talented athletes and giving the American people what they want to see which is a league that isn't seen as a third tier league.
Lifting the salary cap would mean owners would then be able to spend their money on bringing in bigger more talented names and develop more talent in America along with keeping our most talented players here in America.
It's time to turn MLS into a destination and not a retirement home or a stepping-stone to Europe. An example of some of the talent that may soon leave MLS without some change is Sean Johnson. Last night without him in goal the U.S. Open Cup Final might not have been much of a match up. Johnson single-handedly kept Chicago in the game for as long as he could. Without moving from the very limited $2.675 million salary cap, teams will not be able to afford the very talented young players like Johnson for the Fire and he too will probably be looking to Europe, much like Marco Pappa seems to be every other week.
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