Nashville MLS expansion bid receives major boost following Garber’s first visit

The Nashville MLS expansion bid received a boost this weekend following the first visit of league commissioner Don Garber. Nashville is one of 12 cities fighting for four expansion slots and it’s chances of success look to be on the up.

Garber admitted that the MLS front office was surprised when it received an expansion bid from Music City back in December. But after seeing a “committed ownership group”, who are hopeful of securing a public-private stadium financing plan later this year, Tennessee might just be getting a Major League Soccer team.

“Nashville is very much like Major League Soccer: It’s a city on the rise,” Garber said during Friday’s visit.

“When we think about expansion in North America, there’s an incredible energy here. There’s the strength of the entertainment and music business and there’s a great public-private approach to getting things done. That character of the city is very much about our league.”

USA Clearance at Classic Football Shirts

The MLS commissioner toured Nashville on Friday and will be at Nissan Stadium on Saturday, where the USA face Panama in the Gold Cup.

Nissan Stadium is the home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, but Nashville’s potential MLS team would need to have its own stadium. Garber reiterated that any expansion side needs to secure a soccer-specific stadium site to enter MLS.

“If a very promising market can’t have a stadium, they’re not going to be an MLS expansion team. If Nashville’s able to achieve that, it’s going to be a very positive aspect for their bid.

“When we founded the league, soccer stadiums were not part of the original plan. The plan was to play in NFL stadiums. Now, we realise there’s no reason to go into a market until you get that locked up.”

Nashville mayor Megan Barry is well behind the push to bring soccer to the city. While MLS bidder John Ingram, who has teamed up with businessman Bill Hagerty, is doing all he can to secure an expansion slot.

They hope to have a funding package for an MLS stadium in the next few months. While Ingram recently bought controlling rights to Nashville Soccer Club. Nashville SC will enter the USL in 2018 and would become an MLS club if a franchise is awarded to the city.

Nashville SC is run by former MLS executive Court Jeske. While the team will be coached by Englishman Gary Smith, who famously won the 2010 MLS Cup with Colorado. Smith remains the only English coach to ever win MLS Cup.

Nashville, San Antonio, San Diego, Sacramento, Detroit, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Raleigh, Charlotte, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, Phoenix and Indianapolis are the 12 cities battling for four MLS expansion slots.

Garber is expected to announce the league’s 25th and 26th teams at the end of the year. Several cities are struggling with stadium deals, but Garber doesn’t expect that to delay any decisions.

“We are very confident we’ll have two that we’ll be deciding on,” he said.

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MLS Musings: August 2015 – Big name arrivals and is the MVP race over?

By Drew Farmer – Twitter: @CalcioFarmer

Major League Soccer MVP race over already?

Sebastian Giovinco, Benny Feilhaber and Kei Kamara are currently the numbers one through three in the MLS MVP race. Right now, Giovinco is hands down the player most valuable to his team. 16 goals and nine assists in 21 games shows that signing the attacking Italian was a brilliant investment for the club. Giovinco has scored 44% of Toronto FC’s goals in 2015.

Though Feilhaber and Kamara are also having career seasons, Toronto have never qualified for the MLS playoffs. If Giovinco can drag them over the line, currently third in the Eastern Conference, he is most deserving of the MVP trophy.

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Seattle shouldn’t be this bad

Seattle Sounders are currently the worst team, in terms of form, in MLS. The Sounders have lost seven of their last eight matches and were destroyed by Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 last weekend at home. A lot of their problems have coincided with Obafemi Martins’ injury and Clint Dempsey being away on international duty. However, Dempsey’s return didn’t help in that loss to the Whitecaps on Saturday.

Seattle always seems to have potential, but whether it’s needing another midfielder or defender, the side never looks complete. This week, the Sounders announced the signing of 31-year-old Andreas Ivanschitz on a free transfer. Ivanschitz last played for Spanish side Levante, scoring four times in 49 matches and will look to improve the Sounders’ fortunes.

Trades and Transfers 

Speaking at the MLS All-Star Game, commissioner Don Garber stated that the league is losing money. Of course, there have been big names joining MLS this year. This summer alone, Didier Drogba, Giovani Dos Santos and Gonzalo Veron were added to the league on DP deals. In the case of Dos Santos and Veron, transfer fees were also paid.

With the transfer window about to end (August 6th), depending on when you’re reading this, several teams have made one or two signings to improve and others have stood still. Looking at the moves made already, New York Red Bulls may have done the best business. The MLS’s most in-form team added to the great chemistry already at coach Jesse Marsch’s disposal. Shaun Wright-Phillips joined his brother, Bradley at Red Bull Arena and days later the club unveiled Gonzalo Veron as their newest DP.

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DC United holding on to squad for stretch run

While their I-95 rivals, the Red Bulls, added two attacking players, DC United have kept their roster mostly unchanged. The Black and Red did trade for Alvaro Saborio in the middle of July, however.

DC are currently relying on 32-year-old Chris Rolfe and 31-year-old Jairo Arrieta to lead the way in scoring, with Fabian Espindola battling ongoing injuries. So far it is a recipe that has worked at RFK Stadium. However, away from the nation’s capital, DC have suffered four of their five losses. DC goes to Red Bull Arena at the end of August so be ready for a close run-in at the end of the season in the East.

Expansion, Expansion, Expansion!!!

During the All-Star Game festivities, Garber spoke about the expansion plans for MLS in the coming years. Atlanta and Minnesota have already received expansion teams and the league is adamant a new, second Los Angeles team would be unveiled. Garber also stressed that Miami is still an option and a city the league wants to play in.

MLS is already at its strongest with 20 teams and has fans that are hungry to see North American soccer on a regular basis. But does MLS need 24 teams, or any more than that?

Some have speculated that MLS could have 28 to 30 clubs in another 10 to 15 years, more similar to other American sports leagues. The North American Soccer League died due to over expansion and found the appeal of soccer wore off after a hot start. Although MLS has been building for 20 seasons now and soccer is very strong in the US, it’s still no more than the fourth most popular sport in the country.

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Rather than see more expansion after Minnesota and Atlanta – does LA need another try at a second team and does Miami really need to be in MLS? – the league should improve the product even more. Increasing the salary cap, to say $10 million and eliminate most of the financial mechanisms that allow teams to gain more salary space would be massively beneficial. Basically be more European. If MLS wants to grow outside of North America, being more European would help. From my experience, MLS turns off too many fans with its various financial methods and spending.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @Calciofarmer. Drew Farmer is a Manchester, England-based journalist/blogger that writes for World Soccer Talk. Drew has contributed to Radio Yorkshire MLS Monday, Forza Italian Football, Bleacher Report, MLSGB and Soccerly. Originally from southwest Missouri, Drew covers Italy’s Serie A, British football and the USA’s Major League Soccer.

Don Garber gives fresh encouragement to MLS expansion hopefuls

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has given fresh encouragement to prospective MLS franchise St. Louis by branding it as having a “great soccer market”.

Garber has met with public officials and business leaders in St. Louis to discuss the possibility of a new franchise being based in the city. Although he made it abundantly clear that any franchise would not happen before 2020.

“This is a city that just loves the sport and has so many people committed to it,” Garber told the St.Louis Post Dispatch on Tuesday. He went on to say: “We really hope to work with them.

“This is a soccer town. We’ve never been able to even think hard about a real opportunity to be here. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get here. But we think that there is a possibility. And that is really what today’s all about. It’s our first fact-finding mission.

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“Right now, we know there are three things that matter: A strong, passionate soccer city – this certainly is. A great stadium plan – there’s an interesting one being developed. And I think there will be no shortage of people who will be interested in owning a team.”

St. Louis looks increasingly likely to join MLS at some point and it seems that Commissioner Garber is very much open to having an expansion franchise based there.

Would you like to see an MLS expansion franchise in St. Louis? 

What is the latest situation with David Beckham’s Miami MLS expansion team?

Back in February, David Beckham announced plans to open a new franchise and still maintains that he will be able to bring an MLS team to Miami, as does business partner Marcelo Claure who echoed these ambitions.

“Even with all the problems that we’ve had with Miami politics when it comes to stadiums, I believe that we are in the final stages of making some important announcements, because it’s a very important goal for me that Miami has a soccer team,” he said.

Claure resides in Miami and also owns the Bolivian soccer team Bolivar. He’s been working alongside Beckham since it became apparent that he was interested in setting up an expansion team.

Problems

The project hasn’t been without its setbacks as local politicians have already rejected two of the stadium venues proposed, but Beckham said his team will continue to look for sites.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said, “this can’t go on forever – the Beckham group continues to work to try and find a stadium solution that they believe will put them in a position to succeed.”

Commentator Richard Fleming has also raised concerns and said, “time is running out for David Beckham – the league is aiming for 24 teams and others are queuing up, so Miami and the former England captain had better get a move on.”

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A spokesperson for Miami Beckham United said, “Miami is still David’s number one choice and it will happen. The fans and the people of Miami are behind us and we hope to announce some positive and exciting news soon. The reality is that everything is progressing very well.”

We await further updates on the situation, but it’s unlikely that there will be any developments until the new year now.

Will David Beckham be able to bring an MLS team to Miami?