MLS has historically been a league where conformity is king and rocking the boat is seen as a a detriment to the greater good. But Rowdies owner Bill Edwards doesn’t play by those rules. MLS clubs have historically not marketed aggressively out of market, but with MLS HQ in New York City, in addition to a large percentage of the soccer media (though Los Angeles and Miami have a similar concentration of soccer writers/reporters) the billboard seems strategically placed.
Edwards knows he has a historic brand (which has become more of a fad in MLS these days fueled by 70’s nostalgia) and sits in the single largest TV market (per Nielsen) that MLS does not have a club in currently. MLS also knows how Edwards might just react if he isn’t awarded an expansion team with his brash actions in the recent past toward NASL (the league he left) and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (a club he reportedly attempted to purchase) , MLS execs will need to be careful in how the frame any possible rejection of a Tampa Bay bid. Edwards’ move certainly puts Tampa Bay even more on the radar for many who cover and work in the sport domestically.
In the near future, we will examine the credentials of Tampa/St Petersburg’s strongest competition to join MLS in the near future.