DETROIT (WJBK) - Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert announced today that they have submitted an official application to Major League Soccer (MLS) to bring an expansion franchise to downtown Detroit. The league recently announced plans to grow to 28 teams and identified Detroit as market of great interest.
Gores and Gilbert, both graduates of Michigan State University with substantial sports, business and investment holdings in the region, issued a joint statement: “We’ve completed an important first step in bringing Major League Soccer to Detroit, and together, we have the experience needed to make a new team successful. We know firsthand the power that sports can play in uniting communities. Our hope is this team will play an important role in the continued revitalization of the city.”
Major League Soccer has experienced a period of unprecedented growth during the last 12 years. MLS commissioner Don Garber visited Detroit last April and received an initial briefing on the Gores/Gilbert expansion plan prior to the January 31, 2017 application deadline. MLS officials expect to announce two expansion teams (#25 and #26) later this year followed by two additional teams (#27 and #28).
The addition of an MLS club will enhance the expanding entertainment district in the heart of the city. The team will serve the local and international soccer fan base of Detroit, while inspiring a new generation of youth soccer throughout the state, whose current numbers exceed100,000 registered players.
“I’m energized about what this opportunity means for the city and the region,” said Gores. “Detroit is rising, reinventing itself. I’m excited to partner with Dan and continue to play a role in Detroit’s resurgence.”
“Detroit sports fans are some of the most passionate in the world. No where else can you find as many major league teams in the urban core than in Detroit,” said Gilbert. “Since soccer is the most popular global sport, we also hope having an MLS team will put Detroit on the map with new audiences, attracting more visitors and more residents to the city.”
An Opportunity For Detroit
• Independent studies in comparable MLS franchise markets predict an economic impact to their respective regions of $1.2 billion over 30 years.
• The Metro Detroit market is home to a large base of soccer players, fans and supporters and has developed a passionate soccer culture. Detroiters support minor league soccer at a high level. An MLS team will complement the two lower division minor league soccer teams playing in Detroit.
• If Detroit is chosen for an MLS expansion team, it would become the most dense urban sports and entertainment district city in America with four major professional sports stadiums within four blocks: Ford Field, Comerica Park, Little Caesars Arena and the new MLS stadium.
• Detroit and the state of Michigan have a strong corporate base capable of supporting MLS operations. Michigan is home to 21 Fortune 500 companies, ranking sixth among U.S. states. In addition, there are large private enterprises in the state such as Ilitch Holdings and Rock Ventures.
An Asset For The Community
• Tom Gores and Dan Gilbert have always viewed their sports teams and companies as community assets and have endeavored to use them to unite and inspire -- those efforts will run broad and deep.
• Plans include a first-class, state-of-the-art soccer stadium in the heart of Detroit’s sports and entertainment district. The stadium will be programmed to enhance urban living within the core of Detroit with a variety of events.
• Implementation of MLS league initiatives will seek to improve lives and communities at the grassroots level from providing safe play spaces and free after-school programming in underserved urban communities to donating soccer equipment to community organizations.
• Part of bringing top-tier soccer to Michigan is being fully vested in youth soccer. Establishing youth academies and partnerships with existing youth soccer clubs will be prioritized to help develop young players in Michigan.
A Global Sport, for a Global City
• Metro Detroit has hosted 10 international soccer matches.
• Michigan Stadium played host to the largest international soccer matches - twice - in the U.S., with attendance exceeding 105,000 as host to UEFA powerhouses, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Chelsea in 2014 and 2016.
• FIFA selected Detroit as a host city for the 1994 World Cup, the most prestigious single-sport event in the world, establishing Detroit as a major player in international sports competition.
• Metro Detroit is home to World Cup-caliber players on the pitch in both the men and women’s games including Alexi Lalas (USMNT 1991-1998), Brian Maisonneuve (USMNT 1996-2002) and 1999 World Cup Champion, Kate Sobrero Markgraf (1998-2010).
• UEFA (Union of European Football Association) clubs, including Liverpool F.C., A.C. Milan and A.S. Roma, have recognized the viability of soccer in metro Detroit and have established youth academies or partnerships with youth soccer clubs in metro Detroit, with other UEFA clubs expressing interest in the marketplace.
Given the collective experience, expertise and personal and organizational resources of the joint ownership team, Detroit is uniquely qualified location to launch a new team, develop a new soccer stadium and execute MLS’ vision in becoming one of the top leagues in the world.