Sunday, November 19, 2017
Sports

Jones: Not sure the MLS odds are in the Rowdies' favor

RECOMMENDED READING


Know what would be great? If Major League Soccer awarded an expansion franchise to St. Petersburg.

Know what seems unlikely to happen? Major League Soccer awarding an expansion franchise to St. Petersburg.

If you're a local soccer fan, time to start getting nervous.

Whether you want to call it reading the tea leaves or a gut feeling or reading between the lines, it just feels like St. Pete's bid to get into the MLS is a long shot.

And it just got a little longer.

The MLS already has plans to put teams in Los Angeles and Miami. After that, MLS is looking to expand by four teams with 12 cities in the mix. Two will be named in December, then two more sometime after that.

In the latest "power rankings" by SoccerNation.com, Tampa Bay is listed eighth.

Part of the problem is that Miami's group, spearheaded by soccer legend David Beckham, is getting its act together after coming close to falling out of MLS plans.

That's bad news for St. Pete. With a team already in Orlando, you wonder if MLS would be comfortable putting three teams within a few hundred miles of one another. High-profile soccer has already failed once here and in Miami and it would be a huge risk for the MLS to try both markets again.

St. Pete's best hope was that the Miami bid would disintegrate. That's not happening and — conspiracy theory alert — you can't help but wonder if MLS was talking up St. Pete all this time in order to give Miami a kick in the rear.

At the MLS All-Star Game earlier this week, MLS commissioner Don Garber said, "We believe the time is right — finally — for Miami to become a great MLS city."

Still waiting for the commissioner to make such a proclamation about St. Petersburg.

In fact, during an interview with Fox Sports 1 during halftime of the All-Star Game, Garber mentioned several possible expansion locations before bringing up Tampa Bay — which felt like an afterthought, as if Garber was saying it out of obligation rather than serious consideration.

Maybe that's reading too much into it and maybe Garber and MLS have a very high opinion of St. Pete.

The other sticking point for St. Pete is a stadium issue that suddenly and surprisingly has become a hot-button topic.

All along, we thought the stadium question was all set. It was going to be Al Lang, where the Rowdies currently play and where owner Bill Edwards is committed to spending up to $80 million to expand the stadium to at least 18,000 seats if it lands an MLS team.

Then St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman dropped an intriguing notion when he went on WDAE 620-AM. He floated the idea of Tropicana Field (or the land where the Trop now sits) being turned into a soccer stadium.

Almost immediately, Edwards and the MLS said they are committed to Al Lang as the current and future home of the Rowdies.

So where did this idea of the Trop being the future of the Rowdies come from? As Times columnist John Romano points out, you can't help but wonder if, somewhere well behind the scenes, MLS orchestrated this idea. And if you believe that, you would also have to believe it's because MLS isn't crazy about Al Lang.

Ultimately, this isn't so much about how great the Trop site is, but how questionable the Al Lang site might be.

No matter how much money Edwards spends and no matter how swanky Al Lang is dressed up, it always is going to be on the smaller side.

But all this Trop talk seems moot anyway. Considering all the intriguing possibilities for the Trop site, it seems highly unlikely it will ever be used for soccer.

So what can St. Pete do now?

Nothing except wait and hope that some of the other cities in the MLS race — Sacramento, Cincinnati, San Diego, San Antonio, Nashville, Raleigh, Phoenix, Detroit, St. Louis, Charlotte and Indianapolis — either can't get their stadium plans together or realize that the $150 million expansion fee is just plum crazy. Throw in stadium fees and the cost of an MLS start-up and we might be talking about several hundred million dollars before anyone is kicking a soccer ball.

I still shake my head at how much it all costs. Maybe a few cities will shake their heads right out of the line.

It would be awesome for the best soccer in this country to be played in Tampa Bay.

Unfortunately, it feels like a long shot.

Comments
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosMonster Energy Cup: Ford EcoBoost 4003 p.m.NBCCFLSaskatchewan at Toronto1 p.m.ESPNewsEdmonton at Calgary4:30 p.m.ESPNewsCollege basketballMonmouth at Virginia1 p.m.FSFWomen: Maryland at Connecticut1:30 p.m.ESPNPuerto Rico Tip-Off, fifth pla...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Updated: 5 hours ago
No. 14 UCF rolls Temple 45-19, heads to War on I-4 unbeaten

No. 14 UCF rolls Temple 45-19, heads to War on I-4 unbeaten

PHILADELPHIA — There were so many reasons for UCF coach Scott Frost to worry about his team’s focus. With a huge game against USF looming, playing an improving Temple team in a stadium where the empty seats outnumbered the filled ones by about a 3-1 ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh: ‘Let them remember us’

Gerald McCoy to Ndamukong Suh: ‘Let them remember us’

TAMPA — In the spring of 2010, one of the biggest debates during the week leading up to the NFL draft was which defensive tackle would be selected first: Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.Both figured to be highly productive NFL pla...
Updated: 6 hours ago
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

TAMPA — It’s still way early, but if the Lightning’s record start continues, there will be a lot of hardware up for grabs. And we’re not just talking about the Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov has league MVP written all over him. Andrei Vasilevskiy coul...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

Bucs’ belief in Jameis Winston has been shaken

TAMPA — Belief is the biggest attribute a quarterback can bring to his team. Belief in his talent. Belief in his commitment to winning. Belief in his ability to bring everyone together and have his voice lead the path forward.But the belief the Bucs ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Updated: 6 hours ago