We here at Last Word on Soccer recently wrapped up our series profiling the 12 cities applying for MLS expansion. After having a good, hard look at every market, we took to the streets to find out who you, the people, want to see in MLS starting around 2020.
MLS Expansion Roundup: Which Cities Get In?
We polled three different groups of people in our search for the views of MLS fans. First off, we asked each of Last Word on Soccer’s writers for who they thought should get in. Our scribes settled on St. Louis, Sacramento, Cincinnati, and San Diego. Sacramento and Cincinnati were selected due to their strong presence in the USL. Sacramento Republic and FC Cincinnati were the leaders in USL attendance last year. St. Louis and San Diego were picked for the recent sporting vacancies left by departing NFL franchises.
We also asked the famed MLS Discussion Group on Facebook. Their membership agreed with us and selected the same four cities.
We also ran Twitter polls for each of the dozen locales asking if our followers felt the city was worthy of the league. In a series of 12 tweets, we asked the simple yes or no question if the city deserved a team. The results differed from the first two voting blocks. Twitter chose Cincinnati, San Antonio, Detroit, and Sacramento.
In the end, we collected a total of 225 “ballots” naming four expansion cities each. While Last Word on Soccer’s writers agreed with the dedicated fans of the MLS Discussion Group, Twitter clearly stepped in and messed with those results. When the results were combined, three cities clearly stood out above the rest. The fourth place spot was highly contested and four cities were within 10% of each other for that final place in the league.
Now, for the overall winners of the poll.
Thanks to a strong Twitter showing, Cincinnati took the top place in our poll, appearing on 83.56% of our “ballots.” The city has one of the strongest cases for MLS expansion. FC Cincinnati burst onto the USL scene last spring with record attendance. They ended up leading the league in that regard and showed nothing but solid enthusiasm for their team.
The Gateway City came in second place with 61.78% of the vote. St.Louis still has to overcome some stadium funding issues and hurdles within the local and state governments, but the enthusiasm is certainly there. Saint Louis FC does fairly well at the gate for a USL side. Their plan for a stadium is ambitious and will turn out well as long as they can secure the funding.
Generally considered a shoe-in for expansion, Sacramento fell down to third place in our poll with 59.56% of the vote. Now that their ownership fiasco is sorted out, they are more than likely to get in during the first round of expansion because of a solid stadium plan and their lower level popularity. The long time USL attendance leaders have a stadium approved and just need official word on the franchise to break ground on the building.
San Antonio got a strong enough Twitter following to push them into fourth place with 36.44% of the vote. They certainly have a rich ownership group with lots of sporting merit that MLS would be attracted to. They also have one of the largest Latin American populations in the country. That’s a big factor when determining the possible success of a franchise that MLS tends not to ignore.
Barely Missing Out
Three other cities were around 10% of the vote or less away from catching San Antonio. The closest was San Diego at 32.89%. The void left by the NFL’s Chargers is fueling the momentum behind their bid. Barely behind them was Detroit at 30.22%. The Motor City has a couple rich NBA owners backing their bid, but has to convince local government to sell their potential stadium site to them. Tampa and their beautiful stadium renderings came in at 26.22%, within striking distance of fourth.
Bringing up the rear are markets like Indianapolis (20.89%), Nashville (17.33%), Raleigh/Durham (12%), Phoenix (11.56%), and Charlotte (6.67%). These bottom feeders are mostly predictable, although I was expecting San Antonio to be down in this category, as well.
Here are the overall standings: