By Paul Kennedy
Don Garber has pushed for Major League Soccer's 20th team go to a franchise in his native Queens, but the league commissioner admitted for the first time pressure was growing to get a NY2 stadium deal done.
MLS has invested heavily in getting city approval for the construction of a stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, but the speed at which Orlando has moved forward on its own plans for a soccer stadium has outpaced the speed at which MLS been able to plow through the New York bureaucracy.
“It needs to get done so that we can move on with our expansion plans,” Garber told reporters at Saturday's New York-D.C. United game at Red Bull Arena. “I’m not going to put any timing on that but we’ve got to finalize our expansion plan. There’s a lot of activity in Orlando and we’ve got to figure out where that fits in with our expansion timing.”
The city of Orlando has been buying up land in the downtown area in the first move in the city's bid to attract an MLS franchise with a soccer-specific stadium.
MLS has not announced plans for expansion beyond 20 teams, though Garber has talked about the league's competing goals of adding a second team in the most important media market and moving into the Southeast, where it has had no teams since the demise of Tampa Bay and Miami in 2001.
“We are focused with Florida more so than we’ve ever been in the past,” said Garber. “There are about 80 million people in that part of the country and we don’t have any representation lower than [Washington] D.C., so Florida has become a bit more of a priority.”
RIVALRY WEEK CROWDS. MLS's nine Rivalry Week crowds averaged 23,140, the highest weekly average so far in 2013. The largest crowd was 40,150 for the Seattle-Portland match, the Sounders' seventh largest crowd for an MLS regular-season match. Montreal drew Toronto FC almost 38,000 fans for its home opener played at Olympic Stadium.
Two games were sellouts in soccer-specific stadiums -- Real Salt Lake-Colorado (20,370) and Sporting KC-Chicago (19,868) -- while the New York-D.C. United game played in freezing temperatures drew 22,022 fans -- the Red Bulls' largest crowd for a home opener since their first season at Red Bull Arena.
The most disappointing crowd was the announced crowd of 19,117 for the Los Angeles-Chivas USA match, the second smallest crowd ever for a SuperClasico regular-season game.
Rivalry Week Crowds
37,896 Montreal-Toronto FC
22,022 New York-D.C. United
20,370 Real Salt Lake-Colorado
19,868 Sporting KC-Chicago
19,117 Los Angeles-Chivas USA
16,528 Columbus-San Jose
15,689 Philadelphia-New England
15,623 FC Dallas-Houston
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