The MLS has come a long way from the ten-team league of its 1996 origins. The addition of Los Angeles FC next year and an as-yet unnamed and homeless Miami team in 2019 will bring it to twenty-four teams.
It’s not just the number of teams that has changed, of course. On its founding, respectable but unremarkable names such as Tony Meola and Jaime Moreno were the stars of MLS. Since then it has seen David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Thierry Henry and Andrea Pirlo arrive.
Crowds have expanded from the low five figures — fewer in some cases — to an average attendance of more than 21,000. How, then, will the addition of four new clubs — and maybe more beyond those — affect the MLS? Will it keep growing and growing?
New States To Enter The MLS?
While LA FC and the Miami Beckhams (they probably won’t be called that, but go with it) will land in states with existing clubs, eight of the twelve cities competing for the next spots are in virgin territory for the league. For the first time, Tennessee and Arizona could have representatives in the league, with Nashville and Phoenix among the cities to apply.
A Return To Tampa Bay?
The Tampa Bay Mutiny were the most unfortunate of all MLS trailblazers – they were the first club to become defunct, in 2001. That may go against the city this time around, but Tampa has history. The Tampa Bay Rowdies were an inaugural member of the original NASL, and a team of the same name currently plays in the USL. Their elevation would be a popular move.
Why Stop At 28?
Looking at the MLS map, even with the upcoming expansion, there will still be prestigious cities without a club, so who will apply next time out? Las Vegas would definitely bring some glitz. With a team recently inducted in the USL it would be a great day trip for visiting fans, who could use the halftime break to get some practice in with Lucky Nugget Casino before experiencing Vegas’ main attractions in the evening.
Will It Help The USMNT?
After the men’s national team humiliatingly failed to qualify for the World Cup — more embarrassing than anything the women have done — attention has fallen on the MLS as a scapegoat. It might be wise, post-expansion, to introduce a system of promotion and relegation. Many experts feel that an absence of jeopardy has made home-based USMNT players complacent, and while promotion and relegation wasn’t realistic with ten teams, it could work well with 28 – four leagues of seven teams, with Divisions 1 and 2, East and West.
A Few More Big Names?
The MLS has been home to some legends in recent seasons – but could the arrival of David Beckham as an owner in Miami drive that up a notch? Having passed through Manchester, Madrid, Milan, and Paris across a glittering career, he’s gained connections while accruing star quality. Miami’s something of a playground for the rich and famous, after all, so who knows who may be persuaded by the former England legend?