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  1. Rowdies

Bill Edwards says he's not selling the Rowdies; searching for an ownership group

"I don't plan on walking away from anything," Bill Edwards said. "I've poured five years of my life into the Rowdies and look where they've come. Why would I walk away?" [ David W. Doonan, Special To The Times]

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards disputed a report Monday that he is selling the soccer team, insisting that he instead is looking to bolster his ownership group.

"We are looking to put together an ownership group, and we have five or six groups talking to us right now," Edwards said in a telephone interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "We are trying to take it to the next level, which is Major League Soccer. But it takes a lot of money to be in MLS.

"I don't plan on walking away from anything. I've poured five years of my life into the Rowdies, and look where they've come. Why would I walk away?"

A report Monday in the Sports Business Journal said the Rowdies, who play in the United Soccer League, are being put up for sale. The Journal later tweaked its initial report.

Edwards, 72, has owned the Rowdies since 2013. Since then, the team has secured a long-term lease at Al Lang Stadium, switched to the USL and made a bid to join MLS, the highest league in the United States.

Edwards said his next step is to bolster his MLS bid by finding investors to form a larger ownership group.

Edwards had double bypass heart surgery in May and stepped away for about a month from his daily business activities. He said his health is not an issue, and he has attended several Rowdies practices and scrimmages as they prepare for the regular season.

MLS plans to expand to four cities. Nashville was named one of the four in December. Miami was also granted a team in January; it will begin play in 2020.

Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento, Calif., are in the running for an expansion team. MLS will decide on the final two cities at a later date. St. Petersburg is in the running for one of those two spots.

One of the issues of the St. Petersburg bid was said to be the lack of a strong ownership group. Edwards said that's why he's trying to find other investors.

"In order to be in MLS, it takes an ownership group, so all we're doing is trying to put together an ownership group," Edwards said. "There's been a high degree of interest from people who want to be part of the ownership group. I would still be involved no matter what league we are in. I'm not running away at all."