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MLS Expansion: Nashville is in and Updates on Sacramento, Miami, Detroit + Power Rankings

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Although all the focus is on Nashville, there are big updates on Miami and many other cities vying for expansion.

Courtesy of Nashville SC

In the past these updates get the label “monthly-ish” but this will make three updates in just over a month. MLS Expansion news is hot and heavy with one announcement coming today and another expected shortly. If you want to skip ahead, feel free. However if you are behind, there is a lot of catching up to do.

  • November 2.0 (Final Four, Phoenix, Columbus[!], Cincinnati and more)
  • 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)
  • For all of our expansion coverage, bookmark this page.

Nashville SC are in

As has been widely reported, Nashville SC are the first of the next teams to be announced. MLS Commissioner Don Garber is in Nashville today for an announcement where he’ll be joined by billionaire owner John Ingram, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. They will hold an event today at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

The internet is very upset that Nashville is in especially since their USL team won’t even begin play until 2018 and they are an unproven market. Many will compare them to Atlanta who surged into the league with no minor league presence and arguably had one of the best expansion seasons to date (not withstanding the Chicago Fire winning MLS Cup in a much smaller league in their debut season).

For Sporting Kansas City fans, there is a bit Nashville connection already as former Assistant Technical Director Mike Jacobs will drop “assistant” from his name and run the show in Tennessee. Jacobs has already raided the cookie jar by signing two players and trading for another from Sporting KC’s B-Team, the Swope Park Rangers.

Sacramento Republic FC

With news of Nashville coming out first fans in Northern California have to be a bit worried. It may just be click-bait but The Mercury News put out a story that “Sacramento loses bid” to Nashville. Sacramento have been burned before when Minnesota United leaped over them for a 2017 expansion slot, so it’s conceivable it could happen again.

In some good news for their bid the club recently added soon to be former Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman to their ownership group. Whitman is a billionaire, something Sacramento lacked previously. It’s unclear how involved Whitman will be but the ownership group was the main thing lacking for Sacramento. The difference between their bid and the other three finalists is that the lead investor is not a billionaire, unless something changes.

Miami, Florida

Oh Miami. February 2018, just two months away, will mark four years since their expansion bid was announced. Now the Miami Herald is reporting that Todd Boehly, previously the majority partner in the bid is out to be replaced by Jorge and Jose Mas and Masayoshi Son.

The Mas Brothers overseas MasTec, a multi-billion dollar infrastructure firm. They are based out of Florida, which has to be seen as a boost for the Miami bid. Son’s networth also dwarfs Mas as he’s reportedly worth $23 billion.

This would seem to sure up Miami’s situation, but with Miami you never know. The new owners have already been approved by the MLS Board of Governors.

With Miami’s continued uncertainty, one has to wonder if three of the final four don’t get in before Miami does. Don Garber didn’t put that idea to rest when in his State of the League Address he stated that a 3rd team getting in over Miami was “conceivable.”

Detroit, Michigan

In what appears to be too little, too late news, Wayne County has decided against finishing their jail site that Dan Gilbert so desperately wants to put a soccer stadium on. This comes after Detroit reshuffled their MLS Expansion bid away from that site and to Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play.

While this has to be seen as good for Detroit’s chances to get an MLS team, it seems to further solidify they won’t get one in the coming days or weeks but instead will make the perfect candidate for the next round when they can have this stadium situation locked down and when their two (or three) billionaire owners can then pay what is rumored to be a $200 million expansion fee.

Phoenix Rising FC

While they didn’t make the final four, they are still in the push to be in the next round for expansion (or the round after that, this will never end). The Ringer put together a nice comprehensive story on PRFC which also dropped a 2018 timeline for teams 27 and 28.

Phoenix are also looking to make improvements to their pop-up stadium they threw up in 53 days last spring. Improvements include a new media tower, upgraded concessions and potential stadium expansion plans in the future. While this doesn’t really have anything to do with MLS, it does show a commitment to USL from the current ownership group.

San Antonio FC

In a follow-up to last month’s assertions that MLS may have lied to or misled San Antonio’s MLS bid attorney Mikal C Watts indicated that MLS may have been “unfair, unethical and duplicitous.” However, he didn’t indicate anything illegal happened. Also, he criticized Spurs Sports & Entertainment, part of the group behind the bid, for essentially disqualifying themselves from round one of expansion. Watts asserts that by SSE deferring they may have missed their only chance because there is no guarantee of a second round of expansion (which is nonsense, they’ll likely be a second round at the very least if not more).

Bizarre.

North Carolina FC

WRAL Sports Fan has a nice update on Steve Malik’s so far incomplete bid to bring MLS to North Carolina. The real hold up is the stadium and it seemed that Malik knew all along he’d never have that sorted out by December.

“We knew it was going to be challenging to meet the December deadline,” Malik says. “When you think about building on the state government property, tearing down buildings, putting up 750,000 square feet of office space, condominiums, ground-floor retail, all the parking, and the mass transport plan, it’s quite a challenge to think we would have been ready to play [there] in 2020. This process allows our plans to come to fruition in a timeline that allows for public discourse and concerns to be aired.”

Malik is now targeting getting this sorted out by the first quarter of 2018.

Los Angeles FC

LAFC are in and set to start in just a few months, so let’s just keep this brief.

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

EXPANSION POWER RANKINGS

For this month only, I’m dropping from the usual 13 teams (12 + Miami) down to the final three who haven’t been announced for expansion in this round.

1. Sacramento Republic FC

I’ve had Sacramento first for a while now and despite Nashville SC leaping ahead of them and being announced first, they still seem like the most logical partner to join them. I’m not someone who believes there has to be an East and West team as teams like SKC or Minnesota could go the West if several West teams joined or a team like Chicago could go East.

Sacramento’s biggest pro seems to be they have basically everything in order. They have the fans, they have a stadium (which they’ve spent millions on the site already) and they have an established team.

The only thing is question is how rich are their owners. The above addition of Meg Whitman should help but are MLS weary with how Columbus, a smaller market like Sacramento, has faltered (in the league’s eyes)? Or how Minnesota wasn’t as successful as a team like Atlanta with a super rich owner? That’s all that could hold Sac Town back.

2. FC Cincinnati

Cincy really has it almost all too. They have a billionaire owner, a rapid fan base and a successful USL team (in the US Open more so than in league play). Their issue is the stadium, which they are close on. If they had more time they could probably lock this thing down but this artificial December deadline is forcing their hand.

The real answer is maybe to let Nashville, Sacramento and Cincinnati in and let Miami wait since they’ve had four years to get their act together and have not done so. My guess is the pending situation with the Columbus Crew is impacting Cincy getting in. Once the Crew get moved (which I do believe will happen) then the path is paved for Cincy.

3. Detroit

Always the long shot of the four. They could sneak in with all those billionaires and Wayne County suddenly freeing up that land, but as with any deal with the government there is a ton of bureaucracy to get sorted out before MLS can be assured things will work out. Detroit has to wait, lock down that stadium site and then pay $50 million more for the right to enter the league, simply because they can.

I’ll return to a proper Power Rankings after the upcoming announcement and I’ll be sure to keep following all these stories as the race for 27 and 28 (and 29 and 30 and...) continue.