After Minor League Hockey, Major League Soccer?

economics, sports

This report by Portfolio.com and bizjournals is two years old, but I’m guessing the numbers, if accurate,  are fairly sticky.  The question:

“What North American cities are primed economically to host a major-league sports franchise and which ones are already overextended?”

The usual suspects emerge in most cases.  This interactive map displays them nicely.   It’s also how I learned that the numbers crunchers at Portfolio believe Allentown (the Lehigh Valley metro region, really) could support a Major League Soccer team.  Researchers looked at total personal income  (the total sum of all income in a given market) and concluded that while an MLB franchise requires a TPI of $83 billion, an MLS franchise needs a comparatively scant $13.9 billion.

Allentown metro’s TPI is $30.62 billion.  That’s $4 billion more than NHL city Winnipeg and 2 bills shy of Tucson for perspective. I know that Philadelphia (well, Chester) has a shiny new MLS team in the Union, but that’s not a TPI issue.  Given a local MLS team to go crazy for, Lehigh Valley soccer fans would buy in in droves, and so would a good many casual sports fans.  The Union would be our natural rival, with yearly Turnpike Grudge Matches and the like.  A-town would get a piece of the national broadcast action, with ESPN beaming live from our lovely new stadium on the Allentown waterfront a few times a year.  It’s too bad PPL, headquartered here, bought the naming rights to the Union’s home field. But those things can change.

Let’s put this on the fast track.  I’m willing to green light this ahead of my hoped-for Butz Tower (a hypothetical soul-mate for the Art Deco bachelor on 9th street).

Come on, Allentown metro.  You know you want to.

10 thoughts on “After Minor League Hockey, Major League Soccer?

  1. Looking at the map there is a slew of cities with the capacity for a soccer team… It would be great if Allentown had one… Ideally, we would add about 20 more cities with soccer teams. I think we can manage such, considering it is the most popular sport in the world, and quite popular with the fasting growing demographic in the US population.

    If we had 40 teams, we could have a major league and a minor league, but not in the sense we have grown accustomed to for hockey and baseball. In most countries in the world (I imagine pretty much everywhere) they have multiple levels of professional soccer with a system of advancement and relegation, that make the season far more interesting. If you finish in the bottom 3 teams, of the Premier League in England (or La Liga in Spain or the Bundesliga in Germany or France, Italy…) in any given season, you drop to the second level league. Teams finishing in the top 3 teams of the second level league that year, than advance to the top flight the following year. And the the top 3 teams in the primary league get to participate in their continents international champions league. (Said league exists for North/Central America).

    MLS stands at 19 teams as of the 2012 addition of Montreal… so just 21 more to go… Your map has 37 eligible cities it seams, so let’s shoot for 21. (And in reality most countries not only have 2 levels with teams changing between the levels year-to-year, but often 3 or more levels… Mexico has 18 in their top tier, 16 in their next, and then 64 teams in the following… Guatemala has a similar system but with 12 in the top flight)

    Imagine how much more competitive Baseball would be if say going into the 2012 season, the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and Seattle Mariners were dropping down to AAA for the year (or more if they don’t finish in the top 3 in AAA) and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, Columbus Clippers, and Omaha Storm Chasers were moving up to the majors, for the year (or longer if they don’t finish in the bottom 3)

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  2. Considering how big the Lehigh Valley metro area is, population-wise, a MLS team would certainly give us some of the respect we deserve.

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  3. Soccer… so unAmerican. Just kidding…

    Let’s have this conversation again in 2018… it will be until 2013 before the puck drops and it will take at least that long to get a proper feel for how well hockey is doing. Likewise, we need to see the financial impact on the NIZ district to get a feel for how well this changes the financial landscape of the downtown. I’m optimistic but take my anchor projects in 5-10 increments. Waterfront soccer could be awesome though. Until then, let’s sign up an indoor soccer team in the soon to be named “Lehigh Valley Health Network Arena”. I’ll play goalie.

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  4. Scott, love the respect factor idea. We do deserve it.

    Phin: great points as always.

    Geoff: same. I like indoor soccer at the LVHN Arena (we should call it the Hamilton Hospital for short), but I wouldn’t want to get stuck with it if it becomes clear that MLS could be viable. But I’m sure those details could be worked out.

    You’re right that we’re over a year away from the first face off, but I’m thinking the IronPigs are a good indicator. I know it’s not apples and apples (location, traffic, parking, etc), but I think a lot of the parking/traffic issues will be resolved long before the puck drops.

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    1. It’s more of an operation standpoint: businesses that expand too quickly or over estimate their market are often doomed to rude awakenings and shortfalls. since most of these deals require public dollars to work, it only makes sense to ensure the financial health of each before embarking on the next one.

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