Aiming to spearhead a Major League Soccer expansion effort in Detroit, the Ford family has joined Detroit Pistons owner Dan Gilbert and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Tom Dores in their effort to bring top-level soccer to the Motor City by offering, at least temporarily, Ford Field as a possible venue for the team.
This new development could potentially mean an end, or at least a pause, to a previous plan by the group to build a soccer-specific stadium on the former construction site of an unfinished criminal justice complex in Wayne County, Michigan.
The Ford family also owns the Detroit Lions of the NFL, who would share the stadium with the proposed soccer team.
Ford Field was built in 2002 and renovated in the last year. The stadium can hold up to 62,000 spectators depending on configuration.
Detroit is not the only city vying for a coveted expansion slot in Major League Soccer’s growing 24 team lineup; similar bids exist in almost a dozen markets, notably including Nashville, Cincinnati, and Phoenix, to try and secure four spots in the league for the 2020 season.
Soccer is nothing new to the Motor City, with semi-pro Detroit City FC attracting an average of over 5,000 spectators per game, well above what is to be expected of a fourth division club, which went a long way to arouse the interest of MLS.
The move is interesting, as MLS has previously stated its preference to bids with soccer-specific stadiums included as part of the bid. These are stadiums built specifically to house soccer teams as opposed to sharing the stadium with a team in a different sport, such as football or baseball.
The stadiums often have a lower capacity than football or baseball stadiums, to account for lower ticket demand and create a more intimate atmosphere.
It is unclear whether this will have a detrimental effect on the bid, but the ownership group appears to be confident, telling the Detroit Free Press that they believe that having a downtown location for the club’s stadium is the most important factor in the team’s success.
MLS released a statement downplaying whether this will affect the group’s bid one way or the other.
According to Crains Detroit Business, the site of the unfinished jail will now target development from investors outside the world of soccer.
MLS will make a decision on its 25th and 26th franchises in December.
[Featured Image by Jose Juarez/AP Images]