Pistons and Cavs owners may team up to own MLS expansion team in Detroit

From Manchester City and the New York Yankees, to the Atlanta Falcons, to the energy drink company Red Bull, to athletes like Magic Johnson, Steve Nash and David Beckham and celebrities like Drew Carey and Will Ferrell, MLS has recently been seen as an attractive market for ownership of those both in and out of sports. It seems like owners of two rival teams in the NBA are looking to team up to own a team in MLS.

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had a chat on Twitter that teased the possibility of both people teaming up to start a new venture.

That new venture is apparently an expansion MLS team that would be based in downtown Detroit. Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl revealed that Gores and Gilbert “want to build a soccer stadium in downtown Detroit and add more investors to the group.” Wahl also revealed that MLS commissioner Don Garber is planning to visit both of the owners so that would indicate there is some serious thought toward a team in Detroit.

Earlier this month, Garber mentioned how he would like to see MLS expanded to 28 teams with teams 21-24 already spoken for in Atlanta, Minnesota, a second LA team and Miami, and will ideally be in the league by 2018. Spots 25-28 look to be in MLS by 2020 although that timeline is being a bit optimistic. Miami, with David Beckham, is still struggling to make deadlines and 2020 is a tight deadline for anyone to start a team from scratch at this point. In those same comments, Garber said that St. Louis and Sacramento are “front runners” for two expansion spots with Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin and Cincinnati in play for the other two expansion spots.

The city of Detroit is an underground hot bed of soccer. The United States had their first group stage game of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the Pontiac Silverdome and currently, Detroit City FC in the 4th division National Premier Soccer League, has enjoyed some of the highest average attendances for an NPSL team averaging around 3,500 people per game. It’s unknown if Detroit City FC will have any part of this potential MLS team but there doesn’t seem to be any mention of them being involved at this time.

One wrinkle in the Detroit bid is that the bid will likely be continent on if Gores and Gilbert can get a stadium deal. Even if you aren’t asking for taxpayer money, it’s not easy to get a stadium approved. For example, David Beckham’s Miami team was announced in 2014 and bought land for a stadium last April but still awaits for rezoning approval from the city of Miami. And they are willing to build the stadium out of their own pockets and not with taxpayer money.

Depending on the city, this could be a slow process for a city to approve a stadium that is solely for soccer. The only reason why MLS has been so patient with Beckham is because he’s David Beckham and his ownership clause was a part of his original player contract to come play in MLS in 2007. But for most other new teams (NYCFC excluded), MLS wants a stadium plan before giving out expansion team spots. There are more cities than spots and demand is very high so Don Garber and MLS can be very selective in who completes the 28 team field. In the beginning of MLS, MLS had to go out and impress potential owners to invest, now potential owners are coming to MLS looking to impress them.

[Sports Illustrated/M Live]


About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp