The recent ground breaking announcement on a new domed stadium in Birmingham has rumors flying about a Major League Soccer expansion team coming to Alabama. Birmingham mayor Larry Langford seemed high on the MLS in B'ham idea. "We already have a company that wants to pay a million dollars a year for the naming rights, and bring a major league soccer franchise to Birmingham. That’s what this is going to generate in this community." How likely is this to happen? I have no idea.
MLS commissioner Don Garber has stated in the past that for a municipality to be taken serious for an expansion team, it must have two things; a stadium and a strong ownership group. So, with the announcement of the building of the dome, we have one of the two.
Another thing going for B'ham is that MLS has not had a team south of DC since the contraction of the two Florida teams in 2002. I'm sure that MLS would love to have a larger presence in the South and with the success of the Columbus and Salt Lake franchises, it has been demonstrated that a small market can support an MLS club.
So, one of my first question is who is the ownership group to whom Mr. Langford refers? Look, if you are reading this you probably realize that professional soccer is here to stay in the USA, but MLS has a slow growth business plan and that requires very deep pockets to cover any losses that may occur over the lean times in the economy (like the one we are in now). That's one of the reasons they dropped the Florida teams. The ownership of those two squads either weren't dedicated to the product (Tampa) or didn't have enough cash to do so (Miami). If this ownership group is not fully committed to the long term outlook and have the dollars to do so, then MLS will not take a Birmingham bid seriously.
So, right now there are just too many questions that will need to be answered before I get excited about a B'ham team in MLS. BTW, I'll leave the whole discussion about whether soccer should be played in a domed stadium for later. :)