MLS to Detroit? No.

DISCLAIMER: Before I get into this, I should note I’m not an MLS basher, or hater, or whatever you think I am against MLS. I’m just a realist who sees too many reasons why Detroit shouldn’t and won’t get an MLS team.

Soccer fans around the United States woke up today to the news that Minnesota was getting an MLS team in starting in 2018. Good for them, I wish them much success and hope that the league continues to grow and flourish.

With me being from Michigan though, the first thought everyone back home had was, “WHY DOES MINNESOTA GET A TEAM WHEN DETROIT WANTS ONE SO BADLY!?”

Allow me to dispel that notion and idea in the quickest and easiest way I can.

Detroit isn’t and probably won’t ever get an MLS team. There are far too many loopholes and hurdles to clear both logistically and fiscally.

Now some of you may read this and think, “But they have Detroit City Football Club! And they sell out every game and the fans are really passionate!”

This is true, and they have carved out a nice niche for themselves in Detroit and are fun event to go see.

But there is a big difference between selling out a 2,500 seat high school football stadium to see a game where some players aren’t even paid and realistically having enough dedicated fans who go to games to support an MLS franchise.

Rather than 2,500 fans per game, you likely need to get 20,000 fans per game. And those tickets are going to cost at least three to four times more than than the $10 it costs to go see Detroit City.

Oh and where exactly are you going to fit those 20,000 people? Last time I was in Detroit, I don’t recall any place where they could or would put the team.

I was at the Gold Cup in 2012 at Ford Field and people kept saying that Detroit needed an MLS team, and they could just play at Ford Field.

Almost as quickly as that idea came about, the Lions quashed it by saying they would not allow that to happen. And you can bet the Tigers aren’t going to let an MLS team play on their baseball field.

The best suggestion, even it wasn’t that great an idea, was the idea that two semi-rich guys had. Buy the old Silverdome since it could be had for the price of a car, and renovate that into a soccer specific stadium. But that was all talk, and they haven’t done anything to the Silverdome other than let it sit and rot.

Plus nobody wants to make the 45 minute drive from Detroit to Pontiac, ask the Pistons.

Unless Mike Ilitch or Dan Gilbert decides to buy up a ton of vacant lots and buildings somewhere in Detroit there is no place to put a stadium.

And while that’s the biggest hurdle logistically, fiscally, there truly isn’t that much of an interest in soccer in the metro Detroit area.

Below is a chart of the Top-40 markets (in terms of MLS interst) most interested in having an MLS team in their city. (Data from Scarborough Sports Marketing in February 2014)

The Top-40 cities in terms of MLS interest. Do you see Detroit?
The Top-40 cities in terms of MLS interest. Do you see Detroit?

Have you found Detroit yet? That’s because it’s not on there. So while Detroit City may be loud and proud and pack Cass Tech’s stadium, there really isn’t that much of an interest in hosting an MLS team.

And that’s because there are so many other entertainment options in Detroit that you are competing for dollars with. Just in sports alone there are the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, as well as junior hockey in Plymouth and Ann Arbor.

Realistically if an MLS were to come in they are looking at 7th billing in the Detroit sports world after the four pro teams, and two big colleges.

Not to menton they are competing with the Tigers during spring and summer, one of the most dedicated and well supported baseball fan bases in America.

And let’s not forget that most people in Detroit don’t have a whole bunch of extra income at the moment.

So while MLS to the Motor City may seem like a good idea in principle, realistically, you can probably give up on that dream.

Again, I’m not an MLS hater, or soccer basher, I’m just letting you know that if you want an MLS team to root for in Michigan, it’s best to look outside the state’s borders.


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