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MLS Expansion Update: Charlotte Pay $325 Million, Indianapolis, San Diego, Austin, St. Louis

Could this be the last expansion update for quite a while? Six teams are already announced for the next three seasons.

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NFL: SEP 12 Buccaneers at Panthers Photo by Mary Holt/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s time for another periodic MLS Expansion Update. If this is your first time here, you can go into our years of expansion coverage here. Last time out we had updates on Charlotte, Phoenix, Las Vegas and six teams dropping their active bids. Earlier this year St. Louis got in and then they were followed by Sacramento. On to the news!

Charlotte, North Carolina

David Tepper — owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthersjust bought his way into MLS (The Athletic breaks down where that money goes). He paid a stunning $325 million to get in. That’s $125 million more than St. Louis and Sacramento who were just announced for $200 million in recent months. Their fees were $50 million higher than FC Cincinnati just paid to get in. The fees are really out of control.

Another point that was confirmed is that Charlotte will jump the line and come in with Austin FC in 2021 ahead of both St. Louis and Sacramento in 2022.

Charlotte also made their first hire. They are bringing in Marc Nicholls, who was the Director of Player Personnel for the Seattle Sounders. It will mark a return to the Carolinas for Nicholls who was one of the founders of NC Fusion, an academy in North Carolina. He also coached the Carolina Dynamo in the USL PDL (now USL League Two).

Indy Eleven

Indianapolis, Indiana was home to some fantastic soccer in 2019 (and former Sporting KC player Tyler Pasher). But their hopes of joining MLS were once again dashed by the likes of St. Louis, Sacramento and Charlotte. They were among the 12 teams vying for spots up through 28 (and now 30) yet they were passed over five times. The above mentioned three, along with Nashville and Cincinnati. However, that doesn’t mean their bid is dead.

Team president and CEO Greg Stremlaw had the following to say:

“I don’t think it’s healthy to get bogged down in exactly our placement,” he said. “But we have a process, and we’ve said from the get-go we want to stick to a process... I think we have a very strong application. I feel confident that MLS will be going to 32 teams.”

Also according to the Indy Star, “Stremlaw didn’t want to speculate where Indy currently stands in the pecking order, he expects league expansion to continue and likes Indy’s chances.”

In other Indy news from that same story, the team is down to a “handful of sites” for the potential location of their new stadium — Eleven Park. They currently play in a comparatively empty Lucas Oil Field — the home of the Indianapolis Colts (NFL).

“We’ve gone to Sporting Kansas City to what they’ve done with their venue. We’ve gone to Allianz Field (Minnesota United), the new one in Minneapolis, to see that they’ve done,” Stremlaw said. ”We’re meeting with their ownership groups as well as their front office staff to glean things that they’ve done well, things they feel they could’ve done better… We’ve gone to LAFC, New York Red Bulls. We were down at the MLS All-Star Game in Orlando.

“We’ve also taken the time to meet with many national design firms. So, in the next few months we’ll be announcing our national design firm. We’ll be partnering that national design firm with local businesses and local architects here.”

San Diego, CA

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a story about Landon Donovan and others from the failed SoccerCity bid moving on.

“It was hard,” Donovan said recently of the SoccerCity plan not becoming reality, “because it was two years of our life. But that’s what soccer is, right? You lose one weekend, and then you get ready for the next game. If you quit because you lost one game, you wouldn’t have a successful career.”

From the rest of the story, it sounds like all parties tied to the original bid, have moved on. That doesn’t mean a new bid can’t emerge. Look at Charlotte who sprung to life with a newer, richer billionaire.

St. Louis, Missouri

Future Sporting KC cross-state rival St. Louis, hit a roadblock in recent weeks. The state of Missouri didn’t approve tax credits the team was counting on, but now the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting a lesser figure could get through. It would be around $6 million instead of $30 million.

Nashville SC

Speaking of roadblocks, the 2020 expansion Nashville SC club has hit one in their stadium plans. Regardless of when their stadium on the fairgrounds site opens, they’ll join MLS this season from Nissan Stadium — home of the Tennessee Titans (NFL).

Austin FC

Partial owner Matthew McConaughey thinks that soccer in America will overtake baseball and hockey. That seems like reasonable goals with the NFL and NBA have ample leads.

Corner Kicks (all that other expansion news)