Posts Tagged ‘Expansion’

Congratulations to the Orlando City Soccer Club after knocking off the final major obstacle in their path to becoming Major League Soccer’s twenty-first franchise as Orange County commissioners approved funding for their new stadium.

Requiring five of seven votes by the commissioners, the meeting lasting approximately six-and-a-half hours came to an end that gave Orlando City supporters reason to celebrate.  The funding plan for the twenty-thousand seat soccer stadium had previously passed the City of Orlando’s vote by a six-to-one mark.

Within the next thirty days, Orlando City SC and Major League Soccer will work towards finalizing their expansion agreement, putting the affectionately dubbed Lions in a position to enter the league in 2015 alongside the previously announced New York City FC.

The reported expansion fee of $70 million is significantly less than New York’s $100 million fee (New York is the nation’s largest market and an existing franchise, the New York Red Bulls, plays in its New Jersey suburbs) but more than Montreal paid (approximately $40 million) to enter the league for the 2012 season.

With the all-but-official inclusion of Orlando City SC as one of the league’s four additional expansion franchises announced beyond New York City FC.  Two of the remaining three teams are widely expected to be awarded to a group including David Beckham and Marcelo Claure destined for Miami (ETA 2016) and another to play in Atlanta (ETA 2017) under joint ownership with the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons.  The remaining franchise is seemingly up for grabs, with Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Antonio, St. Louis and Sacramento appearing to be the leading candidates.

The Jacksonville Jaguars replaced the St. Louis Rams as the designated home team for the annual NFL International Series in London, England’s Wembley Stadium in 2013.  The Rams, along with the Jaguars, were candidates to relocate overseas, but decided to focus on securing a long-term lease at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis instead of marketing themselves on the international scene.

The Jaguars, who had signed a contract to host the game every year from 2013 to 2016, are getting anything but exclusivity in the NFL’s presence across the Atlantic, as the league added a second London game in 2013 and announced on Tuesday that the 2014 season would feature a grand total of three games in London.  The Jaguars remain as the host of one of the games, as guaranteed by the contract, while the 2013 secondary host, the Minnesota Vikings, will be replaced by the Atlanta Falcons and the Oakland Raiders (the latter being yet another relocation candidate, though the team would likely target its former home in Los Angeles in that event).  The road teams and dates for the matches have yet to be determined.

At least one other game will be played outside of the United States in 2014, as the Buffalo Bills will host their annual Bills Toronto Series at the Rogers Centre.

It seems to be only a matter of time before a team is playing a full eight-game home schedule in the United Kingdom, and the team has – much to the chagrin of U.S. Soccer fans – been touted as a potential huge source of income for the English Football Association, the governing body for soccer in England.

NFL expansion outside of the United States will inevitably cause some concerns.  If a team is located in England or Mexico City in the future, would it be of benefit to the national teams of those countries that are inarguably the two biggest rivals of the United States Men’s National Team?  And if a team is eventually placed in Toronto, whether it be the Bills or an expansion franchise, will the Canadian Football League be able to survive without its largest media market?  Such a move could potentially lead to the demise of both the Toronto Argonauts and the nearby Hamilton Tiger-Cats, and to a lesser extent the Ottawa REDBLACKS expansion team set to begin play in 2014, and could lead the Canadian population as a whole to relegate their league to a minor league status nationwide.  Of course, the most enraging issue for some fans may be the continued lack of a franchise in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which lost both the Rams and Raiders in the 1994-1995 off-season, as the Rams left for St. Louis and the Rams moved back to Oakland.

Perhaps the best path for the NFL to take should it opt to expand outside of the United States would be to place a team each in London, Los Angeles, Toronto and Mexico City, but the moves will not come without significant controversy.