This is the day Detroit makes its pitch for one of two Major League Soccer franchises.
The Motor City bid is led by Dan Gilbert, Tom Gores, and Martha Firestone Ford, who know a thing or two about owning pro sports teams with the Cavaliers, Pistons, and Lions, respectively. And they're proposing Ford Field as the site for the new MLS team.
How strong is Detroit's bid?
Alexi Lalas, Fox Sports analyst and National Soccer Hall of Fame member, joined Stateside to share his thoughts on Detroit’s chances. Lalas grew up in Birmingham and he has had a long career playing soccer for the U.S. in the World Cup, and a long stretch in Major League Soccer as a player and a coach.
Listen above for the full conversation, or catch highlights below.
“When you have locally-invested and certainly deep-pocketed ownership that has a history when it comes to professional sports, that also has the soccer component as part of a bigger development type of play... I think all of those things, at least initially, had me putting Detroit at number one in terms of the twelve teams that were vying for these two spots that are going to be announced this year, and more spots further on."
"But right now we’re down to this final four… The news that came out over the last month regarding the change of heart when it comes to a soccer specific stadium, a road that Detroit has been down over the last year, trying to get that downtown and now moving to an NFL stadium at Ford Field, I think that that threw a lot of people for a loop. I think it had a lot of people scratching their heads. So, while before I would have put Detroit at number one of the four finalists right now for the two spots, now I think they’re probably at four, which doesn’t mean they don’t get in eventually, but … it doesn’t look good for Detroit in terms of the two, but I tell you what, that ownership group, that is something powerful, and other owners like to be involved with other deep-pocketed owners, and this is a billionaire’s league at this point.”
“In my gut, I don’t think it’s going to happen for this round, but I think they get the next round.”
How Detroit might still snag a spot
“We are recording this on a day when the final presentations are happening in New York City by all four teams, and if there ever was the moment for someone to get up and give a powerful PowerPoint presentation, it is today when it comes to Detroit. Because if they can talk about how they came to this decision, why it’s good not just for what they feel is going to happen in Detroit but also good for the league, and they’re able to justify that in front of the ownership groups that are going to decide this, then certainly they can be right back into it. But sometimes it’s about hearts and minds, and sometimes it’s literally being in a room with people, being able to look them in the eye, convince them that this is the right thing and why they pivoted from the soccer-specific stadium.”
An appetite for soccer
“I think the landscape across the country when it comes to professional soccer and the appetite for professional soccer has just gotten incrementally bigger and bigger. Obviously the World Cup in ’94 which we all remember in the Pontiac Silverdome."
"There is a soccer audience. There always has been a soccer audience… There is a vibrant soccer community in Detroit, but giving them the opportunity week in and week out to support a team, to go to a team on a much bigger scale than they have right now or have had in the past, that’s important.”