Re-Ranking the MLS Expansion Teams

Reported by JP with additional commentary by Moneybags Smythe.

Previously, we ranked ten possible cities and how they would stack up to MLS’s criteria for expansion. On Tuesday, 12 cities officially  submitted their bids to acquire the next franchises. Since we now have a (somewhat) clearer view on each bid, let’s get new rankings.

Charlotte’s stadium that probably won’t happen (Credit: MANICA Architecture)

12. Charlotte

This is not our Oak City bias coming out, but this bid is pretty disastrous. After Mecklenburg County decided to move along the plan to finance $43.75 million for the stadium, the city council decided to delay the vote. The Mayor even came out days after the bid was submitted to say that the city didn’t support the deal, but maybe a smaller investment in a year or two. Which means that Marcus Smith needs to pony up his own money, or find more investors. Or he can just ditch the bid, which looks like it will happen.

11. Sacramento

Last time we were discussing the expansion teams, RCS ranked Sacramento #1. It was supposed to be a slam dunk for a city that had the support from the fans and the city. Moneybags even said “As a betting man, I will lock this in as the next team”.

On the day of the bid, reports started to come that indicated that the Sacramento Republic name was left off the proposal and that a last minute ownership coup had taken place. The actual owners of the Republic were shocked. Now the Mayor wants everyone to make up and play nice. It’s a total mess and a once assured team will probably be left in the dust.

Note: Moneybags still considers this a top-5 bid and calls the shenanigans “a minor misunderstanding”

10. St. Louis

As previously reported, St. Louis has a lot of positives going for them: great geographic location, a solid ownership group, Nelly, a void created by the Rams departure. The main sticking point was the city’s reluctance to publicly finance a new stadium. On January 26, a bill for the stadium was finally passed after an earlier defeat, and looks to be voted on in April if it passes through the full Board of Alderman. Their MLS fate depends heavily on this vote, and you never know what can happen.

9. Detroit

The ownership is obviously great (Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores) but like the others ranked below them, Detroit has a problem with their stadium. As Moneybags reported in the last article, the owners were looking “to buy an abandoned jail site from the city that is right next to Tigers’ Comerica Park, Lions Ford Field, and Red Wings new arena and create a giant sports/ entertainment corridor.” On their bid, the owners listed the Wayne County jail site as the only location. According to Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, the county will issue on Feb. 10 a request for bids to finish the jail. After that date, the county “will not consider any alternative proposals.”

8. Indianapolis

Coming out of nowhere, Indianapolis decided to throw their hat in the ring for expansion. The city already has the Indy Eleven and is looking to upgrade their stadium to reach MLS potential. The problem – you can see a trend here – is that when they wanted to get a new stadium in 2015, the Indiana government dragged their feet so plans were scrapped. But the owners are confident that usage taxes will get the stadium plans through the city and state government.

7. Tampa

We all know that Tampa is pretty lame, but their stadium renderings are very compelling.  Only problem is, their owner intends to finance the debt portion of the stadium with a 2% adjustable rate mortgage, climbing to 15% in two years once construction is complete.  And he intends to charge concession fees that are disallowed by MLS.  And he intends to be the lender, not the owner.  Oh sorry, this wasn’t in his bid, this is just how he made all his money in order to finance this effort.  Typical Tampa- a nice vision, but in a city where the Mutiny already failed, it’s just a Ponzi scheme dream. – MS

6. Cincinnati

We all know that FC Cincinnati has been a success story in the USL with ridiculous attendance levels and support. They have an issue with their current stadium, but it looks like they are identifying new locations if the front page of their bid is any indication. The issue with Cincy is that it is the smallest market out of all the cities.

5. Nashville

Honestly, I have not read or heard much about Nashville’s bid. Like Moneybags wrote, Nashville is one of the fastest growing US cities and has done well with national team and recent Gold Cup matches and it seems that their bid is highlighting that. They fancy themselves an underdog, but it’s very hard for me to rank them definitively. Their stadium situation is up in the air, but the ownership group is targeting the Nashville Fairgrounds land as a potential site.



4. Raleigh

Throwing out bias here, I think Raleigh has a really good shot. Steve Malik submitted two potential stadium sites (in addition to WakeMed) for MLS to pick between. Plus, he said that there is going to be a “breathtaking” translucent roof.  We all know there is rampant support already for NCFC and it has grown since the announcement of the bid in December. A lot of questions remain if the market can handle a MLS team, the Courage, and the Hurricanes – plus the elephant in the room: HB2.

Phoenix stadium rendering via

3. Phoenix

Like Indianapolis, Phoenix was a bid that came pretty much out of the blue. But Phoenix is the largest city that currently does not have a MLS team. They do have a USL team that is not that good and has even worse uniforms. But beyond that, their bid is super attractive: they have a good ownership group and have already secured a 45 acre site where they can build a climate controlled stadium. They are one to watch.

2. San Antonio

As described in our San Antonio exclusive analysis, San Antonio FC has one of the best run sports organizations in the world for ownership with Spurs Sports & Entertainment.  They have a viable stadium location in Toyota Field, which isn’t downtown but will be able to also pull the Austin fanbase.  Toyota Field’s capacity will need to be expanded by 10K seats, but there are plans in place and the ownership will suffer financial penalties from city and county if they haven’t landed a team in next 6 years.  With many surprise disaster bids submitted, steady-eddy SA is suddenly looking solid – MS


1. San Diego

This is pretty much a lock now. After the Chargers left for Los Angeles, San Diego wasted no time to make significant moves towards MLS expansion. The ownership group has put forward a plan for a 30,000 seat arena at the old Qualcomm site (to share with San Diego State). The city officials are behind the bid – and Don Garber as well.

The MLS has not set a timetable for when they will make a decision, so it’s very tough to gauge how it will all go down. As you can see from our last predictions, these things change quickly.

Cover photo via

You can find JP on Twitter at @jp_rcs. Moneybags is at @MoneybagsSmythe and still wants BBQ recommendations for his travels.