Although here in Detroit there are the twin stories of should Wayne County trade with billionaires Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores for the incomplete jail site downtown, as well as the recent heckles among some passionate fans that were raised by Palace Sports & Entertainment purchasing web addresses like “DetCitySoccerClub.com,” just one word away in name from the locally popular “Detroit City Football Club,” it’s important to remember that Detroit hasn’t actually been awarded a Major League Soccer team yet.
Although you should never count a pair of billionaires out with a track record of making things happen, when you peer outside of the Detroit media bubble it’s clearly not a done deal and not having a firm stadium plan looks to be part of the reason.
A recent report on NBC Sports website (that links to an interview in the Tennessean) highlights raised chances for Nashville, Tennessee after hosting a 2017 Gold Cup match that had a crowd of more than 47,000 people. Notably, in the top cities in the running, there was no mention of the Motor City.
The current plans are that two MLS expansion teams will be announced by the end of this year, and that the league would eventually have 28 teams. That’s four expansion slots.
Per an interview with MLS commissioner Don Garber in The Tennessean, in regard to a question of why MLS is not approving bids in NFL stadiums:
What’s most important is that the (team) owner own and control the venue. So in Atlanta, for example, we’ll be playing in Mercedes Benz Stadium because Arthur Blank owns and controls the venue. That provides us with the opportunity to schedule, manage operations and not be in conflict with the primary tenant. The ownership group for the Titans are not part of the ownership group interested in Major League Soccer from an investment perspective. Which is fine. It just means that we don’t want to be a tenant in their stadium.
In response to the point-blank question, “To get approved in December, I assume Ingram (referring to the businessman, John Ingram, who is leading the Nashville bid for an MLS team) and his group will need to have stadium plans solidified before then?”
Garber said “Yes.”
From that statement, it seems as if a city has no solid stadium plan, then there will be no MLS team.
In the NBC report, the top cities other than now Nashville in the running out of 12 possible are Phoenix, Arizona; Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida; Cincinnati, Ohio; Sacramento, California and San Antonio, Texas.
Detroit wasn’t mentioned once. This raises a few questions.
What if Wayne County says yes to the jail land swap deal, but Detroit doesn’t actually get an MLS team? A lot of people online don’t seem to want to see the jail get built downtown, but it’s very fair to ask what is the contingency plan? There hasn’t been an alternate rendering released publicly.
And when you set down the rose-colored pro-Detroit glasses, how solid is the Gilbert/Gores MLS bid without a stadium in hand? And what of the local team, DCFC – who just made their league playoffs – and will their fan base (that we heard was poised to set an attendance record before the rain out on Saturday in Hamtramck) follow to the new team?
There are a lot of “ifs” to be answered for the end of play on this match.