Maybe I am just distracting myself from the fact that two trophies will be decided in the next three weeks, but I can’t stop thinking of expansion.
That passion for professional soccer clearly exists in the West: Sacramento, Boise, Las Vegas. However, each of these cities has a potential problem. Boise, though able to mobilize many to sway an online vote, is a very small market. Las Vegas is a big enough city, but has complications both temperature-wise and Puritanical-anti-gambling-wise that will always hinder it. Sacramento may be the Goldilocks of the bunch. It has supported an NBA team for decades and may be just right.
Sacramento has a successful and vibrant lower-division team, and has pulled together investors hoping to make an MLS bid. Dale Kasler, in a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, discuss the city’s MLS ambitions:
It was largely out-of-town money, from Silicon Valley and beyond, that bought the Sacramento Kings last year and kept them from leaving town.
The quest for Major League Soccer, by comparison, is almost strictly a local affair.
Having an array of wealthy Sacramento investors also helps bolster the argument to MLS that the market is worthy of big-time professional soccer. “It’s important to have local ownership involved,” said Lisa Parker, head of an aircraft-parts manufacturer and a new minority investor in Republic FC. “There’s no question we have a strong enough group to be awarded the (MLS) franchise.”
The strength of the ownership group assembled by Nagle could be a tribute, in part, to the recovering economy. “Once you get a city on its feet … these are the natural things that happen,” said new Republic FC investor Scott Powell, president of Sacramento Jet Center, an aviation-operations company. “You naturally get things like the MLS.”
MLS and its footprint will evolve over over the next decade or so. There will be unbalanced growth and teams swapping back and forth between conferences. Towards that end, I propose a solution. I know it’s crazy, but I envision MLS splitting from two conferences to four divisions, each geographically dividing the nation (almost like the power conferences in college football). MLS could have the Pacific, Atlantic, South and Central divisions.
I realize this is completely harebrained. This model kills traditional rivalries: DCU vs. NYRB, RSL vs. the other western powers. I was just spitballing a pure geographic realignment. This would limit travel and ensure a better playoff. The playoff proposed in this system would see each division sending its top two teams. The A teams would be seeded according to points, followed by the B teams. A1 plays B4, A4 plays B1, etc. Each season would end with a little knockout round-esque bracket. What do you think?