Crowds recently poured into Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, with nearly 110,000 people taking "The Big House" to near-capacity levels. But the fans weren't filling the country's largest American football stadium to cheer on a game of pigskin, they were there for a much different variety of sport.
Soccer is having a moment in the U.S. As anyone who attended last Saturday's record-setting Manchester United versus Real Madrid match in Michigan could attest to, the so-called beautiful game is looking better to an increasing number of Americans.
And with World Cup fervor still lingering, Major League Soccer is continuing with an aggressive expansion that will see five new teams in five years. But success is not assured, and past failures may not bode well for both new MLS clubs and the league as a whole.
Expansion costs are also potential minefields. "The costs of expansion are usually the extra demand placed on increasingly diluted talent supply," Vanderbilt sports economist John Vrooman wrote in an email to CNBC. "When the NHL (National Hockey League) added 9 teams in 9 years player salaries went from 50 percent of revenues to over 70 percent just before the lockout of 2004-05 because they had expanded too rapidly."
MLS currently has 19 teams after adding nine since 2005, and league officials have said they plan to increase the number to 24 by 2020. In the 2015 season, the league will see two new teams in contention—New York City Football Club and Orlando City Soccer Club.