How Far Will MLS Expansion Go?

MLS commish Don Garber

The new MLS season is underway, but the offseason wasn’t without some major news. Expansion is almost constantly on the minds of fans, and now there are some major pieces that can be put together. In December, the MLS confirmed that expansion will happen, although no timeline has been set. 20 teams are currently competing in the league, but that number is set to grow with confirmed teams in the next few years.

2017 will see Atlanta United FC come into the league, with a rebranded LAFC coming back for the 2018 season. Minnesota United FC have been confirmed, although the year they enter is still up in the air. They aim to begin play in 2017, while expecting their new stadium to be finished in 2018. There is no doubt they will be in the league by 2019. The same cannot be said for the David Beckham-owned Miami franchise. Beckham has announced he will be triggering his clause to buy a franchise, but stadium problems are proving to hold the project back. These four teams are interesting adds, but the fun won’t stop there.

2015 was a year that confirmed all rumors that the league will continue to grow. Don Garber and the Board of Governors each made multiple statements that 24 is not a stopping point. 30 teams is “too many” according to the commissioner, but 28 teams seems to be the sweet spot that the powers that be have decided upon. That would mean that 4 more expansion teams, assuming Beckham’s Miami franchise gets off the ground, will have the chance to come into the rapidly growing league. You had better believe that there will be a brawl over the last 4 spots, so let’s take a look at some of the major competitors.

Sacramento

Perhaps the runner-up in the last round of expansion would be Sacramento. The city houses a successful USL Pro team, Sacramento Republic FC. They have a strong following and a decent group of investors. The problem for Sacramento is that the San Jose Earthquakes exist. The two areas are relatively close, and there are multiple regions in the US without a single team. I think they have a strong chance at either getting an expansion squad, or a relocating a struggling franchise.

San Antonio or Austin

Texas is one of the largest states in America, and currently has 2 MLS teams in Dallas and Houston. There is no doubt that the state could handle another team. With thousands of Mexican immigrants, soccer is a prime sport to grow within the state. San Antonio has made some overtures to MLS leadership, but need to nail down some solid investors before the MLS will make a move. They are in a decent position to land a squad in the expansion to 28 teams.

Las Vegas

Ah yes, Vegas. The cruel mistress without a pro team. Every pro league in America is looking at the prospects of having a team in Vegas. For MLS, they seem to have some interest as well. A survey of players in the league found Las Vegas as the number one option among players as to where the league should expand next. The city has already set up a good stadium plan that is contingent on being awarded a franchise. Garber ruled them out until after 2018 though, although the NHL is in discussions about awarding a franchise before then. In the run up to 28 teams, Vegas still has a decent shot at getting a team.

St. Louis

St. Louis has one of the richest soccer histories in the country. The city has always been full of soccer fans, but hasn’t gotten a pro team to get behind. With the departure of the Rams, the city will likely be starving for another pro team to support. With potential rivals in Sporting KC and Chicago Fire, this just seems like a perfect fit. Unfortunately, the city hasn’t had a reliable ownership group or stadium plan step up. Politicians have done their part, providing funding for the stadium if they are awarded a team by 2020. I’m giving St. Louis a very good shot to get one of the last 4 spots.

READ: #MLS2STL: Is St. Louis the Next MLS City?

Cincinnati

Ohio already has one team in the Columbus Crew, but FC Cincinnati ownership and leadership are making their pitch to be included in the expansion fray. They claim they can model themselves after Orlando City, who made the jump from the USL to the MLS. With so many other enticing options, it is hard to believe that Ohio would get a second team.

 

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About the author: Dominic Habjan

 

I am a contributor to SoccerPro’s blogs, and truly enjoy writing about the World’s Game. I support Sporting KC, US National Team, and Slovenian National Team. I follow the Premier League but don’t necessarily have a favorite club. I am an avid sports fan, but prefer college to professional leagues in every sport with exception to soccer. I love the Mizzou Tigers, KC Royals, and KC Chiefs. Outside sports I enjoy movies, music, and musical theatre.

Website: https://www.soccerpro.com

 

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