MLS to Add Teams in Miami and Chicago
The announcement Wednesday that Major League Soccer will expand to Chicago and Miami next season caught no one by surprise. The league earlier had hinted at the moves.
What was surprising, however, was the figure involved for one team and the figures involved for the other.
Philip F. Anschutz, part-owner of the NHL’s Kings and owner of the Colorado Rapids of MLS, exercised his option to establish a team in Chicago under the auspices of Anschutz Chicago Soccer Inc.
The team, which is considering calling itself the Rhythm, Wind, Inferno or Marauders, will play its homes game at Soldier Field, beginning in 1998. No franchise fee was announced.
In Miami, meanwhile, Kenneth Horowitz, a Florida electronics and communications entrepreneur, paid $20 million for an MLS franchise that two years ago would have fetched a quarter of that price.
The league’s initial investor-operators such as Anschutz, Lamar Hunt, Robert Kraft and John Kluge, each paid $5 million to operate MLS teams under the league’s single-entity concept.
The Miami club, which does not have a name, will play at the Orange Bowl. MLS Commissioner Doug Logan said the league “had reached an understanding with the city of Miami for a 10-year lease” of the stadium.
A similar understanding has been reached with the Chicago Park District for the lease of Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Bears, for five years.
The addition of Chicago and Miami brings MLS membership to 12 teams, with the eventual goal being a 16-team league.
Neither Anschutz nor Horowitz was available for comment after Wednesday’s announcement in New York, but by adding the two cities MLS has positioned itself in seven of the nation’s eight largest television markets.
Both cities have previously had professional soccer teams. Chicago was home to the Sting, which flourished in the North American Soccer League in the 1970s. The sport’s appeal there in the ‘90s will be tested when the national teams of Mexico and Poland play there this fall.
Miami was home to the NASL’s Toros, a less successful venture than the Sting. The city’s large Latino population is seen as a plus by MLS.