MLS to expand to 30 teams, Panthers owner wants one

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Major League Soccer announced last night plans to expand to 30 teams, two more than they had planned.

And Panthers owner David Tepper has made it clear he wants one.

“Professional soccer at all levels is thriving in the United States and Canada and we believe there are many markets that could support a successful MLS club,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “Expansion during the last 15 years has been enormously successful and a key driver behind the league’s continued rise, and we are pleased that some of the top business and community leaders representing great markets in North America are aggressively pursuing MLS expansion clubs.”

The league currently has 27 teams, and planned to picking their 28th and 29th teams by July 31. The expansion fee for those two teams was set at $200 million. There’s no timetable or fee set for the 30th team yet.

MLS is involved in discussions with Sacramento and St. Louis, and they will make formal presentations to the league soon. But Tepper has made no secret of his have a team to play in a renovated Bank of America Stadium (rather than building a smaller, soccer-specific stadium), and recently sent a survey to locals in Charlotte about interest and pricing options for tickets.

“We’ve been doing a lot of talking, obviously, so we’ll see,” Tepper said at the recent NFL owners meetings. “It’s an interesting question, from what their timeline is. it’s not just our timeline.

“We’re trying to push things forward. Listen, this is the best chance at the cheapest price. Even if we say to the city we need some money to re-do the stadium, it’s so cheap, versus $300 million that you need to build a new stadium. It’s the best bargain, ever, you know what I’m saying? if we could get something done. Because the amount of economic impact to the Charlotte region from having those games in here are so big, so we’re making a push. And that would be really good for the region if we could get it.”

Tepper, the richest single owner in the NFL, has made some other subtle suggestions that an ask for public money for his renovation is coming.

If he gets in the club, he’d join five other NFL owners in MLS: Arthur Blank (Atlanta), Stan Kroenke (Colorado Rapids), Jimmy and Dee Haslam (Columbus), Clark Hunt (Dallas), Robert Kraft (New England), with others as minority investors.

12 responses to “MLS to expand to 30 teams, Panthers owner wants one

  1. I think MLS needs to be careful about rapid expansion. Two problems, one is further diluting talent in a mid tier quality league is going to hurt their product. The other problem being that I don’t think MLS has figured out how to ensure competitive balance needed for a league with 30 teams that Americans have learned to expect in their pro sports.

  2. If the public provides money for stadiums it should get a share of the profits and equity.

    They do – it’s called tax revenue – they same as if the stadium held a concert or monster truck event or anything else at the stadium.

  3. Public providing money, How about PBS ? We pay for half hour long commercials for Sesame Street characters.
    When they sell over a billion dollars worth of Tickle Me Elmos is anything given back to the taxpayers ?

  4. These owners are smart. It won’t be anytime soon, but the handwriting is on the wall. Soccer will eventually surpass football in popularity here in the U.S. Laugh if you want, but remember they once said football would never pass baseball.

    More and more parents are preventing their kids from playing tackle football, and redirecting them to soccer. Well, children soccer players will grow up to be soccer fans (and in some lucky circumstances, pro soccer players!). The NFL is already struggling with Generation Z, and aren’t really killing it with Milennials either.

    Also, some non-soccer fans are learning to appreciate the sport. Football will always be my number one, and I always thought soccer was boring, but the last few World Cups have piqued my interest.

    It will take about 20 more years, but it’s probably inevitable. Expect it to be greatly accelerated once an NFL player dies on the gridiron. And these owners will start to get huge returns on their investments. It’s how the rich get richer.

  5. The MLS is not close to being at risk of diluting the talent pool. The talent level has been increasing significantly over the last 10-12 years as revenues increase and the teams can attract both young and aging talent from abroad. The number of youth programs for soccer is off the charts. Well run teams will have no problems.

  6. The Tampa Bay Rowdies were in the running for the last expansion. Since then the Rays ownership bought the Rowdies franchise. They have already done some joint marketing. Both have there own stadiums in downtown St. Pete. I doubt the Rays ownership would have bought the Rowdies without a plan to have a MLS franchise in the near future. Florida is another huge market for soccer. I wouldn’t count out the Tampa Bay market.

  7. Tepper is working towards getting that $200 million with how much he raised ticket prices after a losing season. My tickets just had the largest 1 year increase in my 20 year history. Look out if we have a winning season.

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