Major League Soccer’s 24th season kicks off on Saturday. Commissioner Don Garber, fresh off a contract extension, is calling for new stadiums for clubs in New York and Boston as well as a solution to the league’s ongoing difficulty in the Chicago market.
Speaking to ESPN, Garber discussed the need for the league to find solutions to its stadium problems in three of the United States’ largest markets. “I think we need new stadiums in New York and in Boston. We need a new stadium solution or a different stadium solution in Chicago. Those are three of the top markets in the country and if they’re able to solve what are legacy stadium projects and move to the downtown urban core I’m convinced that those teams in large cities will give the league even more wind its sails,” Garber told ESPN.
New York City FC currently plays in Yankee Stadium, a ground which they share with MLB’s New York Yankees. The club has in the past had to move matches on short notice to other venues due to scheduling conflicts with the Yankees. In 2017, NYCFC was forced to move a match over a 100 miles to East Hartford, CT. NYCFC is entering its fifth MLS season this week and no long-term stadium solution has been secured for the club.
In the case of the Boston-area club New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium in suburban Foxborough continues to be the club’s home as it has been for each of its 24 seasons. The ground is shared with the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots which, like the Revolution, are owned by the Kraft family. However, securing a location for a soccer-specific stadium in Boston has long been a priority of the team.
The Chicago Fire’s situation is somewhat different. The club already plays in its own ground, SeatGeek Stadium, which opened in 2006. The facility is located in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, approximately 16 miles to the southwest of Downtown Chicago.
The stadium opened at a time when MLS was building soccer-specific-stadiums wherever land was available. Similar to the sites teams in the Denver and Dallas areas built their stadiums on, the Fire’s facility was built at a substantial distance from the core urban area. In the last ten years, MLS has seen the demographics supporting its league shift to a more downtown and urban-oriented crowd, making the Chicago situation a major concern.