- The Tampa Bay Rowdies hope to be the next Major League Soccer expansion team.
The MLS is selecting two new expansion clubs in the second or third quarter of this year, and with St. Petersburg being part of the country’s 11th largest media market, it makes the Rowdies an attractive bid.The owner of the Rowdies, Bill Edwards, plans to spend up to $80 million in upgrades to Al Lang Stadium if the team is part of the MLS expansion. The upgrade would boost the stadium’s capacity from 7,500 to 18,000.
Stephen Cundiff, president of the Rowdies’ fan group, Ralph’s Mob, believes that the energetic ownership is what will make the difference for the team’s bid.
“You have an owner that’s willing to spend the money to make it happen,” Cundiff said. “Any sports fan of any team will ever tell you, the one thing they want their owner to do is spend money; and we got Bill Edwards and he’s spending the money.”
There is excitement among the fans this season as the team has moved to the United Soccer League after spending six seasons in the North American Soccer League.
Rowdies’ midfielder Luke Boden spent time at Orlando City when it made the transition to the MLS in 2015, and knows what the team has to do to obtain the bid.
“It was exciting times,” Boden said. “It was down to us to start winning games and trying to win championships to recognition from MLS. With the MLS hopefully around the corner in Tampa, we need to try and win something this year, and as I say, get that MLS attention.”
The Rowdies have started a social media campaign on Twitter with #MLS2StPete.