Folks, the Arena Football League is three weeks into the 2018 season and the action is hotter than ever! Seriously, with only four teams and pay that is now enough for a person to live on for an entire year, every game is like an all-star game.
But we’re not here to talk on-field issues or play. Oh no no no, we are here because of this juicy nugget that was dropped over the weekend about potential expansion for next season in the AFL.
For those who don’t know, Ari Wolfe is a reporter/broadcaster for ESPN, Stadium, CBSSN, NBCSN and NFL Network, so he’s pretty connected in football circles.
But FOUR teams? At minimum? That seems ambitious for a league that thought it was going to get three this past year to get to eight teams…and instead saw two teams fold/leave and ended up getting one new team just to have four for this season.
But if that rumor does indeed come to fruition, where in the world are they going to play?
The league has made no secret that it seeks to find rich owners, as in, NHL or NBA owners who own the arenas they play in, so it’s very minimal rent for the teams, and so they have somebody who can actually afford to pay the bills should things go sour, which is always a possibility based on this league’s past decade.
The biggest rumor of the past two years was the St. Louis was the big fish they were hoping to land, especially after the NFL bolted for LA. But that hasn’t happened, and probably isn’t happening with the league focusing on the east coast for the time being.
That said, let’s wildly and baselessly speculate about where those four expansion teams could potentially play next season!
Newark, New Jersey
This was hotly rumored last year, but didn’t happen, with the league only adding Albany from that rumor. It makes sense from every standpoint. It’s very close to every team the league currently has (Albany, NY, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC), and checks all the ownership and arena boxes the league is looking for with the very nice Prudential Center the likely home. Of all this baseless speculating, this is the one I feel most confident about.
Brooklyn, New York
Every league always wants a team in New York, and Brooklyn checks that box, as well as the brand new arena, close proximity to other teams, and deep pocketed owners. I just wonder what kind of interest there would be in Brooklyn for arena football, which is played in the summer. I can’t imagine the hipsters want to spend their summer drinking weather indoors. I think this one is likely the happen, but I remain skeptical.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Big arena, rich owners. It’s not that far from most of the teams in the league, and allows the league to star dipping into some of the southern markets they might be trying to recoup after they all bailed in the previous years. But I think the biggest domino in all of this is…
If the Tampa area gets the Storm back, then I think you could potentially see all four expansions teams in the south so you’d have a tight-knit South Division, and a tight North Division, with four in each. The Storm were one of the premier teams in the AFL before they decided to bail this past off-season, and convincing them to come back would be a huge boost to the league. But like Charlotte, you probably need a travel partner for them, or a regional/local rival. Sort of like…
The Predators were another team that had good fan support and strong success on the field, but also got sick of the AFL’s bullshit and decided to bail. Again, I think Orlando and Tampa are dependent on one another, and if one joins, then so does the other. It’s a package deal and I just don’t see one team joining without the other being there to help each other.
QUICK HITS ON OTHER POTENTIAL TEAMS
Arizona – Let’s be real, the IFL that they are currently in is probably not lasting past this year, and it is known that Arizona wants to keep playing no matter what. There was rumor they were going to start a west coast league, but that seems ambitious, so maybe they also come back?
Columbus, Ohio – A strong market that supported the AFL well when it had a team there, gotta wonder if they come back and try to re-ignite that past success, especially if the MLS team moves to Austin, TX like they’ve been rumored to.
Detroit, Michigan – A brand new, downtown arena and strong owners. This would be a very good option, but the city is looking at MLS, and I figure that will get first priority with the AFL being a backup.
Virginia Beach – We’ve discussed this one before, but it would require a new arena as most currently in the area are either small, old, or a combination of both. But it’s an area that loves football, so it could be a good spot that hasn’t ever had a team before.
Iowa – See Arizona, minus the building their own league thing.
Milwaukee – Always supported the AFL well there, and with a new arena coming soon, you wonder if that’s one that may be on the back burner until they start to creep more west.
The Troops – One can’t help but wonder if the troops put together and Arena Football Team, how successful it would be.