MLS Is Actively Shopping DC United To Baltimore

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Written By Chris Azzopardi

Yesterday afternoon, a number of Major League Soccer fans received an email from league brass containing a survey about their interest in an MLS franchise playing in the Westport section of Baltimore, Maryland. And suddenly, it’s looking like D.C. United leaving D.C. is closer than ever to happening.

D.C. United are historically the most successful club in Major League Soccer, having won 4 MLS Cups, 4 Supporters Shields, 2 US Open Cups, and the 1998 CONCACAF Champion’s Cup.

They’re also the only club still playing in a stadium used when the league began in 1996. Eleven soccer-specific stadiums have been built since 1999, with two more on the way, but United still call the half-century old Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium home.

RFK is a venerable old heap, and will always have a soft spot in the hearts of American soccer fans, but it’s a financial albatross around United’s neck, with soaring game day costs of over $140,000. The league average is around $80k, with most of those teams reaping the full rewards of parking (of which United gets a cut) and concessions (of which the city keeps everything).

In the last several years, a number of proposals have been floated, only to collapse and dash the hopes of the United faithful. The city of Baltimore, less than 40 miles north, has emerged as a strong contender should MLS and United’s owners decide a team in the nation’s capital has become untenable.

Back in January, I covered the MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore for Speaking to the assembled members of the media, MLS commissioner Don Garber was pretty blunt that United needed to find a new home or risk relocation, with Baltimore being the most likely destination.

It absolutely is a viable market. The team is called D.C. United and they’ve been down there, obviously, since the league’s inception, but they don’t have a stadium solution, and they need one.

They’ve had very positive discussions here in Baltimore, and if these guys can deliver the right kind of facility, I’m sure Will Chang and Kevin Payne will look hard at a potential stadium solution, and they must have a solution, because what they have right now is not working.

We’ve been saying that for years, and at some point, that’s going to reach the breaking point. I’m not saying that’s tomorrow, but it will happen at some point.

It appears that breaking point is coming soon. The survey contained in the email sent out yesterday raised the hypothetical situations of moving any five existing teams (Philly, NY, D.C., Dallas, or Columbus) to Baltimore or adding a brand new expansion franchise.

As the Major League Soccer playoffs build toward MLS Cup, we are busy looking ahead to the future of our League. As a part of this planning, we are conducting research in Baltimore to help determine the viability of the market as a potential future home of an MLS Club. As a soccer supporter from that area, we’d appreciate a few moments of your time to complete the attached survey. Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Since the four other teams mooted as relocation possibilities are safely ensconced in soccer specific stadiums, and the league seems dead-set on making a second New York team its 20th franchise, one doesn’t have to read too far in to realize that this was entirely about shopping a DCU-to-Baltimore move to East Coast fans without explicitly saying so.

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