1.30.2008

Update: Expansion Race

The race to be granted the 16th MLS franchise is coming down to the wire, with both Philadelphia and St. Louis feeling Miami's breath on their necks. There are significant developments to pass on tonight, as each city tries to upstage the others in vying for attention from the league.

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Philadelphia: The long-dormant plan to build a soccer-specific stadium in suburban Chester is moving forward with new life this evening, as several sources say a big announcement is planned for Thursday. According to at least one report, state leaders are planning to announce the arrangement for $45 million worth of funding to assist in building a facility on the waterfront.

Governor Ed Rendell and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi will be present at the press conference, scheduled for 2 p.m. EST at the Wharf at Rivertown, a renovated office complex close to where the stadium site would be. Getting state funding was seen as the last key hurdle into bringing an MLS franchise to the fourth-largest market in the country.

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St. Louis: Not to be outdone, the city of Collinsville, Illinois is stepping up their efforts to land the next new MLS club. On Monday night, the City Council approved a tax increment financing (TIF) plan by a 4-1 margin, which should help draw potential investors to the project.

The major holdup with the Collinsville plan is not funding; it's a lack of investors. Commissioner Don Garber has gone on the record that he would like to see a broader, better-bankrolled ownership group. Currently, the biggest investor lined up is Jeff Cooper, whose vocal support is rooted in the idea of bringing a team to an area that has been integral in the country's soccer history.

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At this point, it appears to be Philadelphia that may cross the finish line first, as MLS has been eager to get into the area for a long time now. It's not clear if a Philly team would begin play in 2009, as was originally planned, due to the delays in getting funding lined up.

St. Louis and Miami have all but locked up the other two spots that would bring the league to 18 teams. Beyond that, there will be a final push from all interested cities for the final pair of slots, with a second New York club, Las Vegas, Montreal, Atlanta, Phoenix, Vancouver and Portland all in the running.

1 comment:

JC said...

Come MLS come to our city of Miami
we want you..