MLB expansion teams is a topic that may seem strange to some in this time of great uncertainty. After all, baseball, like all sports, has taken a huge financial hit, and there is still a lot of questions about the 2021 season. Add to that the fact that the current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. The expansion would seem to be off the table at this time.
Yet, if MLB is going to thrive in the future, they are going to need to consider expansion and/or realignment at some point. Considering the financial state of the game after the shortened 2020 season, there has to be some serious thought given as to how to keep fans around with shrinking fan bases. There are pros and cons to MLB expansion, to be sure. However, here is an optimistic look at five cities that would be good choices for MLB expansion teams.
MLB Expansion Teams: Charlotte
In terms of its sporting life, the city of Charlotte has come a long way in a fairly short time. This is not your father’s Charlotte. Charlotte is no longer just about Tobacco Road, NASCAR, and ACC basketball. It is also a city that is experiencing massive population growth. The city of Charlotte has seen its population grow by over 50% in just the last 20 years. It is growing at a faster rate than 93% of cities similar in size.
Charlotte already has teams in the other major team sports, with the Panthers, Hornets, and Hurricanes. Add to that the fact that the White Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, the Knights are well-established. Whatever criteria MLB may wish to use, Charlotte is an attractive destination.
MLB Expansion Teams: Indianapolis
Indianapolis is another potential location for an MLB expansion team. The city has a population of around 1.8 million people, a figure that has increased slightly over the last few years. The city also has major league teams in two of the three major team sports, those being the Colts and the Pacers. The Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association played in Indianapolis for five seasons before the league folded.
As far as baseball goes, Indianapolis hosts the second oldest minor league franchise in America. They have been a part of the Indianapolis sports culture for over a century. The Indianapolis Indians are currently the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Another positive for Indianapolis is its location. The city is in the Midwest, within easy driving distance to the teams in both The AL Central and NL Central divisions. This helps make Indianapolis very appealing to MLB.
MLB Expansion Teams: Nashville
The city of Nashville, located in the Upper South of the U.S, currently has a population of around 1.25 million people. While population growth has leveled off slightly, Nashville is still a thriving city with much to offer for MLB. Nashville also features a mild climate, Nashville has an edge that some of the other cities cannot match.
In terms of professional sports, Nashville currently has two teams in the major leagues of their sport. The Nashville Predators play in the NHL, while the Tennessee Titans compete in the NFL. Baseball-wise, the Nashville Sounds have been in operation since 1978, and just received an invitation to become the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. With all this going for Nashville, they surely merit serious consideration to be one of the potential MLB expansion teams.
MLB Expansion Teams: Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City is another city that belongs in the conversation for future MLB expansion teams. It is the biggest city in the state of Oklahoma, with an estimated 2020 population of roughly 650,000 people. It the smallest of the cities discussed, but it should not be dismissed on that basis alone. Oklahoma City can offer a mild climate, as well as a strategic location for teams in the AL or NL West divisions.
As a sports town, Oklahoma City cannot match what the other cities can on the major league level. They do have the Oklahoma City Thunder, an NBA franchise. The Thunder relocated from Seattle in 2008, making them a fairly young NBA team. the city does host the Oklahoma City Dodgers, the Triple-A affiliate of the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, so they do have a baseball history and should be under consideration as MLB considers expansion and/or realignment.
MLB Expansion Teams: Las Vegas
Last, but surely not least, we have Las Vegas to consider. While the population of Las Vegas is similar to that of Oklahoma City, the entertainment capital of the world sees tourists coming and going daily. The population should not be a consideration for the city. It does get rather hot there in the summertime, so one would think that a domed stadium would be a high priority.
As professional sports go, comparatively speaking, Las Vegas is on an off-the-charts trend line. Before 2017, there were no major league sports teams in Las Vegas. The NHL’s Golden Knights began to play that year, and that same year, the NFL’s Raiders agreed to move from Oakland. They played their first NFL game there in 2020. Additionally, the Las Vegas Aviators are the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s and have been around since 1983, with this, Vegas plays second fiddle to nobody in terms of its appeal to MLB.
MLB Expansion Teams: Final Thoughts
Each of the five cities highlighted here can make a strong case to be one of the MLB expansion teams if MLB does decide to expand or restructure. That decision has yet to be made, and it may be a while before one is finally made. One thing is clear, though. If and when MLB decides to add or relocate franchises, these five cities have to be at the top of the list.
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