The soccer news starts with MLS talking up expansion and naming four cities currently in the mix for the next round. The league confirmed that St Louis and and Charlotte met with MLS at the league's office. St Louis made a "formal presentation" while Charlotte's bid gave the league an update on their situation. "The ownership groups from Charlotte, Las Vegas, Sacramento, St Louis and other potential expansion markets are scheduled to attend MLS All-Star week festivities later this month in Orlando," MLS said in a statement.
MLS's expansion push shows no signs of slowing, so it's not exactly surprising that there are multiple cities in play. Charlotte is the latest entry with backing from the city's new NFL ownership. Sacramento and St Louis have been here before, in the conversation in earlier rounds of expansion. Las Vegas is now an established major league city with the NHL in its second season and the NFL beginning play in 2020.
If MLS still has a footprint issue for making sure they're covered in the country's largest metro markets, it's not much of one. They're in the top 10 areas that includes all the metros larger than 5 million people. Of the current named candidates, St Louis is the 20th largest metro, Charlotte is 23rd, Sacramento is 26th, and Las Vegas is 28th. The difference in size between St Louis and Vegas is roughly 500k people based on the 2018 census estimates. Phoenix, the largest metro without an MLS team, has roughly 2 million more people than St Louis.
Call it mid-market expansion, but this is where MLS is in their process. They've already doubled up in the two biggest markets in the country and filled out the top ten by adding Miami. The choice to build soccer-specific stadiums in the suburbs of some of those major markets is easy to criticize now, but it was off its time. With the Chicago Fire looking like the first club to correct that with their reported move back to Soldier Field, that may also be part of a process.
Asking what some of the MLS markets may look like in a decade or how metro migration patterns may change is not necessarily the model MLS is working with. They can't reasonably answer the same kinds of questions asked my multinationals and governments. The current model is expansion, and that will likely continue until it's not tenable. We've seen that ebb and flow cycle with other North American pro sports leagues. 30 to 32 is where they stopped. MLS has 28 as their target, but there's nothing holding the league to that number.
The St Louis Post-Dispatch's Ben Frederickson reports on the St Louis MLS expansion effort. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Steve Hummer looks at the support for Atlanta United during a tough season. The Athletic's Adam Snavely on the freekick turned throw in issue from the Hudson River derby. The Toronto Sun's Steve Buffery on the push Toronto FC needs to work its way up the Eastern Conference table. The Cincinnati Enquirer's Pat Brennan asks if there's still time for FC Cincinnati to make a playoff push.
Wigan Athletic announces that Antonee Robinson has joined the Championship club. Goal's Ignasi Oliva Gispert with PSG reportedly wanting the same fee for Neymar that they paid. Inside World Football's Osasu Obayiuwana updates the situation with the CAF Champions League final. Keir Radnedge explains CAF's World Cup qualification changes for the 2022 cycle.
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Stadium rendering courtesy of the St Louis MLS expansion bid