Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The final seven

There were no surprise bids today when MLS announced the seven cities that have officially bid for a team. Well, Ottawa was the surprise, but, of course, we've known about that bid for sometime.

The league must also be disappointed that the second New York bid did not materialize.

The cities and a few comments on each below the jump.

Montreal (The Saputo's and Gillett's) - There is lots of money and a bare bones stadium already up. Additionally, Montreal has a strong USL history, is a natural rival for Toronto (as well as Boston and New York) and has pre-existing supporter's culture. However, Montreal has been lukewarm about MLS at times and the stadium really isn't remotely close to being MLS standard. Still...Chance of success - 90%

St. Louis (an investment group) - Show me the money. MLS has long wanted in to St. Louis, but St. Louis has never been able to find the type of rich investor that the other bids have. In the free falling economy, that might be deadly (MLS might be leery of dealing with 15 individual investors, any one of which could end up being Boots Del Biaggio. The rest of the bid is solid. Chance of success - 70%

Vancouver (Greg Kerfoot, Steve Nash and Jeff Mallett) - If they weren't planning on playing out of BC Place the Whitecaps could likely start selling the season tickets. Everything else is there--a committed ownership with deep pockets, a passionate supporter's culture, soccer tradition and a great point guard. But that stadium plan. And, the whole more than one team in Canada thing. Chance of success - 66%

Atlanta (Arthur Blank) - Backed by some big NFL money Atlanta has the advantage of representing a region that currently does not have a MLS team--the American south-east. Of course, Atlanta is a notoriously poor sports market, the bid is late to the game and the stadium plan is vague at best. Chance of success: 50%

Miami (FC Barcelona and Marcelo Claure) - It's unclear how much Barcelona is actually involved in the bid at this time. Some are suggesting that the club is full on into this, while others are suggesting that its involvement is symbolic at best. The market has a lot of potential soccer fans, but it failed once before. There is next to no stadium plan. Chance of success - 33%

Ottawa (Eugene Melnyk) - Solid ownership and a nice little stadium plan. That's good. No soccer tradition and a tiny little market. Not so much. Plus, is it really likely that two Canadian teams will get in? It seems like Melnyk might be planting a seed rather than seriously going for it for 2011. Chance of success - 20%

Portland (The Paulson's) - A wonderful pre-existing supporter's culture and, well...they are everyone's favourite. That's only going to get Portland so far. The money seems shaky, they play in a AAA baseball park (an old AAA baseball park) and the bid is relying on way too much public money. Chance of success - 10%

The more the bids shake out, the more it becomes apparent that the best two bids are from Canada. The only reason not to put both teams here is to not put both teams here.

It's likely MLS will give into pressure from a small, but loud group that does not want Canadian involvement in the league by compromising with the single new Canuck team for 2011.

Regardless, you can expect as many as four to five of these cities to eventually get teams. Some through the expansion from 18 to 20 teams and others through relocation.



Andrew Bucholtz said...

Good analysis. I think Montreal and Vancouver might be a little closer together, though: 90 per cent for the Impact seems high given the stadium issues, the fact that Gilett hasn't exactly been an ideal owner with Liverpool and Saputo's perhaps-uncertain commitment. Vancouver is great for rivalries as well, especially with Seattle but also with Toronto. Montreal's bid is a bit stronger, but I don't think it's drastically stronger: Vancouver's ownership group is better, their USL history and history of consistent support is better, and a revamped B.C. Place could work very nicely in the interim.

The overall ranking is also quite good, but I'd bump Portland ahead of Ottawa and Miami: it's proven to be a great soccer town, whereas Miami has been tried and failed. Portland also has natural rivalries with Seattle and Vancouver, and rivalries sell, both at the gate and in TV ratings. It's also the largest market in the U.S. with only one top-tier pro sports team. Miami's stadium issues are just as bad as Portland's, the market's pretty saturated with sports, and the Barcelona support isn't necessarily all that helpful: it has to raise concerns of if they'd just be a farm team for a big club. Portland is a long way from a sure success, but their bid's better than those other two in my opinion.

sager said...

Actually, everyone chance's are 50%.

Either they will, or they won't.


Anonymous said...

Could be true about planting a seed. Melnyk's people have already said thet if they do not get a frqanchise in this round, they will go for it in the next expansion round.