Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced last night the intention of MLS to add 4 additional expansion teams by 2020. With the arrival of NYCFC (co-owned by the New York Yankees and Manchester City) the total number of teams would be 24 in the league. That would make it the largest top-flight association football league in the world.
Is this a good thing? The interesting thing about association football more so than baseball, gridiron, hockey, or basketball is that the talent pool is truly global. And in a league that is looking to increase the overall play on the field in an organic manner, there certainly is no shortage of players available. While salaries are not comparable to the top leagues in Europe and Asia, they are certainly higher than many of the leagues in other parts of the world. Now, MLS has restrictions on the number of international players on each roster, however with more teams, that opens more roster spots that US players (many of which are going to Europe at the top flight) cannot fill with much competency.
The main thing we have to realize is that this is not the EPL. This is not La Liga. And no one is playing calcio. The MLS model is unique and offers a different format that is not only more palatable to the American audience but also allows for it to exist in a conservative economic model given the large amount of travel required to play a schedule from coast to coast.
My opinion? If done correctly (placed in the correct markets where natural rivalries can emerge) this is a great thing. There is a lot of talk in Miami. The league has failed there before. The Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers have quite a bit of trouble drawing. Miami is not the answer. The great expansion that has been done recently is along the model of building teams out of lower level franchises with a raucous following. The excitement is already there to build off of. There is no excitement in Miami. There is no natural rival in Miami. Miami does not make sense. Please, no Miami.
What about NYCFC? Well, you have a killer built in rival with the Red Bulls. And there is already several sets of fans waiting for the arrival of this team (and have been for years). Tie in the Yankees and Manchester City and you have something to build off of. A proper stadium in an accessible area within the borders of NYC, and you have a winner. The loser will be the Red Bulls at first. But I feel the construction of a dirty derby will help the Red Bulls in the long run by bringing interest that has not previously existed.
Well done, Don Garber. Now that is something I never thought I’d say.
More here from ESPN.
P.S. – MLS in Hartford!