Monday, July 19, 2004

MLS Expansion

There was some good news this past week for Major League Soccer as the league announced that it is awarding an expansion team to Salt Lake City, Utah. The team will start play next season, along with Chivas USA, who will play at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles. Thus, MLS will once again have 12 teams when it begins its 10th season next year.
This can only be considered a positive development. The Utah team will be led by Dave Checketts, who formerly ran the Knicks and Rangers for Madison Square Garden Corporation. The team will play at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles stadium for 2-4 years before moving into their own stadium. The Salt Lake area has a thriving youth soccer program, and the 3rd division Utah Blitzz averaged over 4,000 fans a game last season. Salt Lake should prove to be a good addition  to the league.
The Chivas team will be owned by the popular Mexican team Chivas of Gudalajara. Considering that Chivas is estimated to be the 2nd most popular sports team in Los Angeles, the US version should have little problem drawing fans to the HDC. With the LA Galaxy already possessing a sizable fanbase, drawing over 22,000 fans per game, the league will be set for its first intra-city rivalry. It is a delightful irony, in my view, that LA will soon have two professional soccer teams and no NFL team.
This is just further evidence of MLS' slow yet steady growth. The league is averaging nearly 16,000 fans per game. Dallas will move into their own stadium next year, and Metrostars, Chicago, and maybe Colorado, will do the same in 2006. The league is likely to add another two teams in 2006, probably Seattle and Rochester. In spite of the doubters, MLS is here to stay.


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