At halftime of last night's all-star game, Commissioner Don Garber announced that MLS plans to add four new teams by 2020. Sign of a healthy league, or overexpansion?
"As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth," Garber said, "the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022."
"Among the best leagues in the world?" Debatable. But certainly the biggest. With four new teams and the coming addition of NYCFC (if you're keeping count, they'll have added 15 new clubs in 15 years), MLS will have 24 teams by 2020, more than any other top-tier league in the world.
So while this is a sign that MLS is profitable, unlike in the dark days of contraction after the 2001 season, finances aren't the reason other countries' domestic leagues tend to top out at 20. At a certain point, there's not enough talent to go around, and the quality of play suffers. If MLS wants to be taken seriously as a destination for the world's top talent, it needs better teams, not more teams. But it's hard to argue with profits, and most of those profits come from North American fans who'd support their clubs even with a dip in the overall talent level.
So—who gets the new teams? Despite the 2002 contraction wiping out two Florida clubs, Orlando and Miami are prohibitive favorites. USL's Orlando City is close to a stadium deal, and David Beckham has expressed interest in taking an ownership role with a potential Miami team.
Here's a good breakdown of potential expansion destinations, which include Atlanta, the Twin Cities, North Carolina, Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis, Sacramento, and San Antonio.
Which soccer-starved cities have the best arguments for supporting a new MLS team?