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Top markets that could handle more pro sports

Metros that can afford more pro teams -- and those that can't.
Traffic passes downtown Los Angeles on the 10 freeway
Los Angeles, which already has eight franchises in the other four sports, has been out of the NFL since 1995, when the Rams and Raiders moved to St. Louis and Oakland, respectively. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters file

Los Angeles seems to have everything a marketing executive could want. It's big (metro population: 17.5 million) and loaded (combined annual income: almost $600 billion).

But it doesn't have pro football.

It should, though. Los Angeles is the most attractive place in America to put a new professional sports team, specifically a National Football League team, as determined by a study.

Tampa-St. Petersburg, on the other hand, is the most overextended sports market, according to the study. The total amount of personal income the region generates is inadequate for its current teams, let alone any new ones. analyzed 179 markets across America to determine if they have the ability to support more professional teams in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer.

Los Angeles, which already has eight franchises in the other four sports, has been out of the NFL since 1995, when the Rams and Raiders moved to St. Louis and Oakland, respectively.

The total personal income of the 13-county Los Angeles market is large enough to support not just one NFL team, but seven, based on's analysis. Total personal income is the sum of all money earned by all residents of an area in a year.

Behind L.A. on the list of best sites for new teams are Philadelphia, Hartford, Las Vegas and Portland, Ore.

At the opposite end of the scale is Tampa-St. Petersburg, which would need another $82.3 billion in total personal income to provide an adequate base for its three existing franchises.

The shortfall doesn't necessarily mean that any of Tampa Bay's teams will move or fold. But it's a reliable sign that the teams can expect continued volatility in attendance and revenues.

Which metros may be over-extended?

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, for example, ranked last in Major League Baseball in attendance in 2005. They drew 1.1 million fans to their home games, less than half average for a MLB team of 2.5 million fans.

Following Tampa-St. Petersburg on the list of overburdened sports markets are Phoenix, Denver, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. used data on team revenues and ticket prices to estimate how much total personal income a market needs to support a pro sports team. A Major League Baseball team, for example, requires an income base of at least $89.2 billion.

Baseball is the most expensive of the five sports. Major League Soccer is the least expensive, requiring a minimum total personal income of $16.1 billion. estimates the threshold for other leagues as: National Basketball Association, $38.4 billion; National Hockey League, $35.7 billion; and National Football League, $33.0 billion.

The study calculated each market's remaining capacity for pro sports by taking the area's total personal income and subtracting the amounts needed to support its existing big-league teams.

Here's how many markets qualified for each league:

  • Major League Soccer: 73
  • National Football League: 30
  • National Hockey League: 23
  • National Basketball Association: 19
  • Major League Baseball: 0

The total income support required for baseball is so high that no new markets could support an expansion or relocating team. But the study found two existing markets that could support additional teams. Northern New Jersey (part of the New York City market) and San Bernardino-Riverside (part of the Los Angeles market), when considered on their own, would have sufficient total personal income for MLB franchises.

Economic capacity was the focus of the study, but other considerations would obviously be important in any decision to expand or relocate a franchise. Among them would be proximity to existing teams, the availability of stadiums or arenas, and unique local factors (such as the prominence of gambling in Las Vegas).