With currently 19 teams in its league, MLS is more than halfway to 36. No other major team sports league in the U.S. has more than 32 teams. The NHL, NBA and MLB leagues have 30 and the NFL has 32 teams.
What would be the sense in MLS practically doubling its size?
It is the perfect sense.
It would make MLS impossible to ignore and mainstream without a doubt.
National sports talk radio banter would include MLS among its daily grind of sports topics, and television ratings would have to rise because the league would cover so much area.
MLS would be smart to add two teams per year until 2020 or within a year or two after. The passion of the fans at most stadiums is at a fever pitch (sorry, baseball) now.
If TV ratings, sports talk, and mainstream media are going to continue to not see reality, then bring on more teams in more cities. Make more people happy and satisfy a bigger chunk of the U.S. thirst for Soccer.
There are multiple cities and areas ready for pro Soccer. Some places are overdue to have a pro sports team.
Considering the 18 teams and Montreal starting this season, there is room for 17 more franchises.
Certainly, Florida has room for one in South Florida, in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, one more in Tampa and one for Orlando.
Atlanta has an urban/suburban sprawl, along with Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Antonio and Phoenix, all other big areas to choose from, all deserving of an MLS identity.
This is eight more, allowing for nine others.
If one is to consider cities without any pro teams from a major sport, Las Vegas and Austin fit the bill fine as they rank 30th and 35th nationally for greater metro populations according to 2010 census.
Tulsa could work out well with its growth as a metro area and its pro Soccer history. Albuquerque also has unique Soccer history and could be a quirky spot for MLS to plant roots.
Western New York with Buffalo and Rochester makes for an excellent singular possibility as Rochester has its successful minor league team and Western New York is known for the best team of the women’s pro division.
Adding these five more, leaves four to go.
Sacramento could be a great location as their fans have demonstrated huge support to save its NBA team.
Down to three.
The last three could go to veterans like Milwaukee, Detroit or Indianapolis or to fast growing Nashville, Raleigh or Charlotte.
Hartford and Providence are older cities without a pro taste of sports for quite some time. Omaha and Birmingham are contemporary areas ready for the challenge of pro sports. San Diego could make a big splash and Honolulu could make killer waves all for the good of the game.
There are plenty of options and room for discussion for the last three franchises.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com