Where Would You Put An MLB Expansion Franchise?

Ah yes, the age-old question.

It has been 25 years since the latest expansion in Major League Baseball, the longest stretch of stability since 1952 – when the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee to kick off a crazy decade of franchise movement and addition.

Given the recent changes to the postseason format – plus the brand new rule amendments for this season – it seems likely that MLB won’t make any major changes to their 30-team structure in the next few years.

But rapid population growth in new metro areas of the United States, the increasing popularity of the sport and league in not-too-distant international markets plus the ever-intensifying pursuit of money, endless dollars, makes it feel like a matter of when, not if, the next expansion takes place.

It’s a prospect that we – admittedly without considerable serious thought – mulled over in our latest podcast, and will return to in our follow up episode. So I thought I’d canvas the opinion of the crowd when it came to expansion cities and take the groupthink’s advice on our second new franchise.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the top candidates:

Tier One – Major Cities With Existing Big Four Franchises

Portland, Oregon

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Metro Population: 641,162
Closest Existing Franchise: Seattle Mariners (233 km)
Altitude: 15m

Portland is a popular choice for a number of reasons. A large metropolitan area that already provides ample support to NBA franchise the Trail Blazers and MLS side the Timbers, it would finally offer a local rival to the stranded Seattle Mariners and the city has the support of a number of high profile backers that include NFL quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara.

Nashville, Tennessee

Metro Population: 692,587
Closest Existing Franchise: Atlanta Braves (346 km)
Altitude: 182m

Equidistant between Atlanta, Cincinnati and St. Louis, Nashville would fill a geographic vacuum in a baseball heartland. The city already plays host to major league franchises in the NFL and NHL and the minor league team, the Nashville Sounds, enjoys strong attendances. ‘Music City’ is already gaining a reputation as one of the USA’s most appealing destinations: MLB might be smart to get in while they can.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Metro Population: 879,709
Closest Existing Franchise: Atlanta Braves (364 km)
Altitude: 232m

Another potential franchise that might loosen the Braves vice-like grip over the southern US states, Charlotte is an easy sell for a number of reasons. The city is already home to NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS franchises and given it is one of the fastest growing population centres in the country, appears likely to have the appetite for more sport.

Tier Two – Good but boring choices

Las Vegas, Nevada

Metro Population: 646,970
Closest Existing Franchise: Los Angeles Angels (362 km)
Altitude: 610m

It seems like a matter of when, not if, for a Las Vegas franchise. The Oakland A’s have made no secrets of their intention to follow their former stadium co-tenants the Las Vegas Raiders over to Sin City. Aside from being a crying shame for the city of Oakland and the team’s fans, who have repeatedly been treated like garbage, it also feels like a boring move to a city that – whilst popular – is a bit soulless.

Montreal, Quebec

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Metro Population: 1.8 Million
Closest Existing Franchise: Boston Red Sox (410 km)
Altitude: 233m

Yes, the nostalgia would be great. And yes, Montreal was screwed by the 1994-5 players strike more than any other team. But in the 20 years since Montreal lost the Expos, other far more deserving candidates have overtaken Canada’s second largest city. It might have the emotional appeal, but not the logical one.

Austin/San Antonio, Texas

Combined Metro Population: 2.4 Million
Closest Existing Franchise: Houston Astros (236 km)
Altitude: 150m

Less than 80 miles apart, these two booming Texas cities are being eyed up by a number of major sports in the US. The two could realistically share a franchise and would provide an immediate geographic rival to the Houston Astros who hoover up the existing South Texas fans. A third Texas franchise feels a bit… meh though, at least for the moment.

Tier Three – The Wildcards

Mexico City, Mexico

Metro Population: 9.2 Million
Closest Existing Franchise: Houston Astros (1210 km)
Altitude: 2,240m

This is where the fun begins. There is no doubt that Mexico City has the baseball appetite to easily sustain an extremely popular MLB team. The travel time is problematic but hardly prohibitive: Seattle poses almost as many issues from a geographic perspective. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the absurd altitude in Mexico City. It is over 600m further above sea level than Denver, already a seemingly inhospitable place to pitch. It would be a lot of fun though.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Metro Population: 326,953
Closest Existing Franchise: Miami Marlins (1658 km)
Altitude: 8m

No issues with altitude here! Puerto Rico has produced an extraordinary number of MLB players given the size of the territory, and San Juan has always played vociferous host to games whenever called upon to host. It’s not hard to squint and imagine a party atmosphere at every home game. The travel complexity makes it tough – it would be a 6,000 km journey to Seattle – but it might be worth it.

Richmond, Virginia

Metro Population: 226,604
Closest Existing Franchise: Washington Nationals (154 km)
Altitude: 51m

We’ll get on to Rob Noverraz’s other suggestion shortly. But the great city of Richmond, Virginia might not be as far-fetched as we initially made it out to be. In an area with plenty of growing population centres, Richmond would finally provide the state of Virginia with their own major league franchise – in any sport. The state has previously supported Washington DC franchises as their de facto representation: isn’t it time they had their own?

Tier Four: Utah

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Roy, Utah

Metro Population: 39,358
Closest Existing Franchise: Colorado Rockies (617 km)
Altitude: 1,384m
Total Civilian Deaths In Case Of Nuclear Attack: A lot

Yes, it is a red flag that the entire city’s population wouldn’t be able to fill Citi Field. And yes, whilst not at Mexico City levels – or even Coors Field – the altitude is a slight concern. But how better to stimulate the growth of a town once described as “29 miles north of Salt Lake City”. Certainly baseball wouldn’t be competing for people’s attention: the TripAdvisor list of ‘Top 10 Things to Do in Roy‘ currently has four entries.


So with all that said, we want to hear from you. The second half of our silly podcast is being recorded this evening, and we need a second city to host our expansion franchises. Get involved in the poll on our Twitter now:


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