There's been a fair amount of talk in the last couple days about possible MLS expansion. One report was banging the drum for Detroit and the possibly refurbished Silverdome to get a MLS team. Then there was the mayor of Las Vegas saying that he thought his city was a good candidate.
While both cities certainly have things to like about them, I'm just not ready to consider them serious contenders, and certainly not for MLS team No. 20. As has been well established, in order for New York not get that 20th team, somebody is going to come up with an amazing proposal, not to mention somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million.
I just don't see either city meeting both of this criteria.
Putting a MLS team in Detroit would be a feel-good story, no question about it. The economy there is in tatters, but they do love their sports. I have never really considered it a soccer hotbed, but I'm willing to admit that may be my own ignorance. I'll also admit that this idea of transforming the Silverdome into a soccer stadium sounds intriguing, if a little far-fetched.
Thing is, I just don't see someone willing to plunk down the kind of money MLS expansion teams seem to be costing these days. My guess is that once MLS has 20 teams, we could see expansion slow down considerably. If, say, team No. 21 doesn't come until 2015, I could see Detroit maybe being in the running then.
Las Vegas has people excited for entirely different reasons. Those that are rooting for Sin City to join the ranks of MLS seem to believe that a team would be successful based on two things: tourism and Hispanic population. There's no question that Las Vegas has plenty of both of those things, I just don't know that they are particularly important to the success of a MLS team.
Think of the major tourist destinations in the United States. San Francisco, New Orleans, Miami, San Diego, for instance. Sure, they all have major league sports teams, but many of them have also struggled at the gate. That doesn't mean all tourist cities are bad sports cities, but I can't think of any that actually rely on tourists to fill up their stadiums. Those are great places for big one-off events like the Super Bowl, but I just don't see why anyone would believe tourists are going to play significant role in filling a stadium 17 times a year.
If someone is going to put up the money to build a soccer stadium and buy a team, I think they are going to have to be assured that locals are going to be the ones buying most of the tickets. Tourists may prove to be a great supplemental source of money, but that's it.
Let's also remember that Las Vegas, itself, is still recovering from a pretty bad economic run. While it wasn't decimated the way Detroit was, the city was hit very hard by the economic collapse.
All of this is basically a long way of saying New York still seems to be the heavy favorite to be awarded MLS team No. 20. I think it's still an open question as to which of the competing groups will win that bid, but no city seems to be doing enough to overtake the momentum that has, perhaps unfairly, been pushing NY2.