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MLS Expansion Update: Final Four Announced + Phoenix, Columbus, Miami, LAFC and more

The latest expansion news for Sacramento, Nashville, Cincinnati, Detroit, Phoenix, Columbus, Miami and more.

New stadium renders from Detroit as they slip into the final four spots for 2020’s two expansion slots.
Courtesy of Detroit MLS

Usually these MLS Expansion updates come out every month or so but the news was too big yesterday to not do an update. So instead of waiting a month (or usually longer) we have an update a mere 15 days after the last one. If you are behind, I recommend you catch up on the previous updates before diving in.

  • November 1.0 (Timeline, Miami, Detroit, Nashville, San Antonio)
  • October (Nasvhille, St. Louis, Phoenix -- also, the month it may have been decided)
  • September (Don Garber speaks, Miami, Sacramento, Nashville and more)
  • July (Phoenix, San Diego, Cincinnati, Nashville)
  • June (FC Cincinnati, Miami, San Diego and more)
  • For all of our expansion coverage, bookmark this page.

And Then There were Four...

On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus broke the news that MLS was down to four candidates for the two spots that will be announced in December. The final four are Sacramento Republic, Nashville SC, FC Cincinnati and Detroit, Michigan. The same teams I had in the top four, if you don’t count Miami (and you shouldn’t), last month.

The four teams will make a presentation on December 6th, three days before the MLS Cup Final, with the two winners being announced sometime after the MLS Owner meeting on December 14th. Likely on the 19th or 20th per Jeff Carlisle of ESPN.

As I stated two weeks ago, Sacramento and Nashville are my picks. Not because I think they are the most deserving, but because I think they’ll get in. They both have stadium plans and financing in place. Sacramento have even started developing the land where there stadium will be built.

Cincinnati seems like the first runner up. They are doing everything right but their stadium site is still unsettled. They could probably put a stadium on two of their three sites but the site in the best area, and the one MLS likely wants most, is still up in the air and looks unlikely to be resolved in the next week.

Detroit seems like they were included to keep all three (yes three!) of their billionaires on the hook. They switched their bid to Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play. But because they have three billionaires, no need to let them in yet. The MLS Expansion fee has been rumored to be climbing from $150 million to $200 million in the next round and they have the money to handle that without issue.

Phoenix Rising FC

In a bit of news that should have been in the last update, ESPN’s Carlisle is also reporting there is a potential snag in Phoenix and it goes back to the theory I laid out in the October update. PRFC simply may not have enough money on hand to convince MLS to commit. In Carlisle’s own words:

“MLS won't grant a bid until the ownership group is bolstered.”

Berke Bakay’s net worth is unknown, but it’s definitely not in the billions like Nashville, Cincinnati and Detroit, which could be why Phoenix was left out of the party. They own their land, they have financing in place and they have previously reported they have multiple stadium renderings and plans and were just waiting to make a final selection. The rush to do so can calm down as there is no timeline currently laid out for teams 27 and 28. Phoenix still has a ton going for it, but it may need to hope expansion goes beyond 28 to have a chance as Cincy and Detroit seem like good bets to get in not to mention an extended timeline will let San Diego and St. Louis get back in.

Columbus Crew SC

This is weird to see, but it seems very likely the #SaveTheCrew campaign will end with the Crew moving to Austin, Texas. But did it have to come to this? Of course not and new details are emerging from Columbus Business First (behind the paywall) that free land was offered to the Crew. Not much is known beyond that, but Precourt doesn’t seem interested in saying based on the fact that they didn’t even follow-up.

How does this tie into expansion? Well it appears the MLS has offered that the Crew apply for expansion if (and let’s be honest, when) they move to Austin. This is not unprecedented as the San Jose Earthquakes became the Houston Dynamo and the Earthquakes later got an expansion team. Seems pretty harsh though.

I don’t remember where I saw it, but someone said if Cincinnati gets a team, they should buy the Crew’s naming rights and put a USL team in Columbus as their minor league affiliate. Salt, meet wound.

FC Cincinnati

To add to the news that Cincy is a finalist, they also got approval today from county commissioners to the tune of $52 million for infrastructure improvements (roads and “other”) as well as 1,000 space parking garage. That’s short of the $75 million they were asking for but it’s better than the nothing many thought they might get.

This money is to develop the Oakley site. While that site is in Cincinnati, unlike the Newport site which is technically in Kentucky despite being much closer to downtown, but it’s not the preferred site if I had to guess. The third site is the West End neighborhood, which is a lot more trendy and a lot more centralized.

North Carolina FC

While it’s unclear if it’ll help in future MLS expansion efforts but NCFC are on the move from the NASL to the USL. It seems it can’t hurt as MLS and USL have a relationship. They’ll join the USL immediately an begin play in 2018 with an immediate rival in the Charlotte Independence. The real story here could be another year where the NASL is on the verge of collapse as their champions, the San Fransisco Deltas, look to be dissolving.

Nashville SC

Nashville, who seem likely to get an expansion slot, have announced a kit sponsorship for their inaugural USL season. They’ll partner with Nissan, which seems quite large enough to carry forward to MLS.

Sacramento Republic FC

Graham Smith, the Director of Football Operations for the Sac Republic resigned last week. Smith has been around since the beginning but left the club in the hands of President Warren Smith and Chairman/CEO Kevin Nagle.


Word from The Sun is that David Beckham wants Aston Villa boss Steven Bruce to run his team. The two go back to their days together at Manchester United. Assuming Miami finally joins MLS.

Los Angeles FC

Bayern Munich star and Polish international superstar Robert Lewandowski apparently wants to end his career in LA according to his wife Anna. He is only 29 and this could be LA Galaxy news, but lets force it into LAFC instead.

In a more concrete rumor, LAFC are linked to a couple Egyptian players. It makes sense since Bob Bradley, LAFC’s first coach, coached the Egyptian National Team from 2011 to 2013. Mahmoud "Trezeguet" Hassan is just 23 and a winger and Abdallah Said is an attacking midfielder.

Corner Kicks (for all that other expansion/contraction news)

No power rankings this time since it’s such a recent update, but the ones from two weeks ago look pretty smart right now.