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May 23, 2013 at 1:58 PM

A quick Q&A with GM Adrian Hanauer on MLS expansion, a USL PRO franchise

hanauer mugReporters got a chance to catch up with Sounders FC general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer earlier this week at practice.This came after Tuesday’s announcement that MLS had awarded an expansion franchise to an ownership group made up of Manchester City and the New York Yankees.

Hanauer discussed the impact of the new team, which will be called New York City FC, and also touched on the team’s explorations regarding a USL PRO affiliate.

Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(What are your thoughts on the recent expansion in New York?) “It’s exciting. Obviously a massive market; you could argue the most important market on the planet. Great rivalry opportunities, great visibility, huge investment between the franchise and the stadium from a foreign group that sees the potential in our game and in our league, and so personally I’ve very excited. I can’t wait for them to start playing. It’s just another of those stepping stones along the way in the development of Major League Soccer.”

(Do you have a sense on if the league will stop at 20 teams now?) “I don’t know. I don’t anticipate that 20 is the end of the story. How and when the next expansion happens, I couldn’t say, but there are certainly a lot of big, important markets left in this country. Again, I know most leagues around the world have 16, 18, 20 teams, but this is just a different beast in North America. When you look at the size of Canada and the United States put together, to compare that to another league around the world and suggest that we should have 20 teams, as well, I just don’t think is realistic long-term. I hear a lot of the same things you do — I probably know a little bit more — but I don’t know what kind of timing or what future expansion would look like.”

(Can the league get to where it wants to go without a presence in the Southeast?) “Well, the league is past where many of us maybe envisioned it five, six, seven years ago, but certainly getting into the Southeast is another step along the way. It’s just clear that there’s a big fan opportunity, big television opportunity that just doesn’t exist today.”

(The Pacific Northwest rivalries came up during Tuesday’s announcement a time or two, how about are rivalries in that sense?) “The Northwest has clearly been very successful. I think by virtue of other sports rivalries around the country, rivalries are really important in all pro sports. I think you see with the Giants-Jets and Yankees-Mets that New York just has the potential to be a monster of a rivalry town.”

(Any update on your development toward a USL PRO franchise?) “No, not really, We’re still kind of assessing things, talking with various groups, putting some pro formas together that could include a new stadium, existing facility, Starfire — but no.”

(But Tacoma hasn’t been ruled out or clinched its spot?) “No. Again, I don’t think it’s going to be at Cheney (Stadium), but we still are talking to the folks at the Rainiers, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t come up with an alternative.”

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