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Could D.C. United Become Baltimore United?

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Here's a scary thought for soccer fans and D.C. sports fans: could D.C. United, MLS' flagship team, move to Baltimore? The answer is: probably not anytime soon. But think about the kind of conditions that cause professional sports franchises to relocate. They include the following:

  • An old stadium
  • An impasse with any efforts to build a new stadium in their city
  • The prospect of a new stadium in another city that seems to want the team badly
  • An ownership group that doesn't have quite as much to spend as some other teams
Now, read this article by Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun. Concerned yet? I would be too. Some choice excerpts below the jump.

There's something here that satisfies all four of the above signals for an eventual franchise relocation. 

Old stadium? Check:

Despite a loyal fan base, "playing here makes for tough business for us," [Director of Communications and Marketing Doug] Hicks said of RFK Stadium, a venerable but outdated facility. "It's a great building with a lot of history, but in a lot of ways we need something that is more modern and has the revenue structures that allows us to maximize our business."

An impasse with efforts to build a new stadium in D.C.? Check. Via Steven Goff of the Washington Post:

As for Washington, "We are quietly having some conversations in D.C. with developers and others. We will see if there are any real possibilities here," [club president Kevin] Payne said, adding that Poplar Point, the club's first choice for a new facility to replace RFK Stadium, "is a fairly confused situation right now" because of issues with the transfer of land from federal to city hands.

The prospect of a new stadium in a city that wants the team? Check. Back to that Sun article:

The proposed soccer-only stadium and an adjacent hotel that could accommodate up to 500 guests would be part of a $1.5 billion mixed-use project being developed on the waterfront in Westport. Developer Pat Turner pointed to the fact that television ratings in Baltimore for the World Cup are indicative of how such a stadium -- with the possibility of D.C. United playing there -- would be received in the city.

"Baltimore was the No. 2 city in the nation in terms of watching the World Cup," Turner said Wednesday. "Obviously, it's up to D.C. United whether they make a decision to move here or not, but I think the support here is more than what it is up in Philly," where a soccer-only stadium was opened this year for a Major League Soccer expansion team.

An ownership group that doesn't have as much money to spend as its peers? Check.

Erik Stover, managing director of the MLS New York Red Bulls, said in an interview last week that the team would not have even attempted to sign French star Thierry Henry had it not been for the new facility. The team moved there from Giants Stadium.

So yeah, if you're a D.C. United fan, I think there's reason to be concerned. There are too many warning signs to just ignore the grave possibility that D.C. United moves to Baltimore.