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Philadelphia Confident of Expansion Success
Philadelphia Inquirer, August 24th, 2007 7:45PM

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Major League Soccer will be doling out a pair of franchises before the end of the year, and Philadelphia officials believe their city is close to being one of them. As Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford points out, Philly, with one of the largest markets and a great sports tradition, has long been a target for MLS, but in the past two key elements have been missing: political support and an investor with deep pockets.

Well, Gov. Ed Rendell recently gave his blessing to an investment group interested in bringing MLS to Philadelphia to start looking for support to build a stadium along the Chester waterfront near the New Jersey border. Gov. Rendell believes he can drum up some state funding as part of a project to revitalize Chester. According to Ford, the initiative has been spearheaded by a well-connected Republican named James Nevels who, despite having tussled with Rendell, is committed to finding funding for the project. In all, the project is likely to cost $170 million, including the $30 million MLS franchise fee. The next step is for Rendell to disclose how much public money he's willing to put behind a new stadium and training facility; likewise, local and state officials need to assess the financial stability of the group and its project.

Other competitors for the two MLS slots are frontrunners St. Louis and Seattle, and Phoenix, Portland, Atlanta, San Diego, San Antonio, Texas and Vancouver, Canada. MLS currently has 13 teams.

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