The race for the 28th Major League Soccer franchise is down to two cities. MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who was recently in St. Louis for a visit, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it’s down to St. Louis, Missouri and Sacramento, California.
What about the other cities in the running? You have Phoenix, Detroit, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Las Vegas (which wasn’t in the original mix) and others.
“Those are cities that, should we ever decide to expand beyond 28, would have to be considered as part of a next round,” Garber said.
Remember, Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes believes that expansion won’t stop at 28 (no one does really) but that he envisions 40 teams.
Speaking of Detroit, they were once thought to be a leader to land in that initial 28 teams, but have fallen out of favor. “I’ve been in regular conversations with [Detroit’s ownership group],” Garber said. “And we still struggle with their stadium plan.” That doesn’t sound promising. Remember Detroit went from having a soccer specific stadium to potentially using Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play.
Garber was in St. Louis to meet with regional business leaders. Speaking further on St. Louis’ bid, he had specific advice. “It would really help their bid if they had stadium naming rights and a jersey sponsor in place,” Garber continued. “So there is a specific level of financial corporate support.” To their credit, getting a jersey and stadium sponsor are something the group is “moving aggressively” on.
St. Louis appears to be in the driver’s seat to be the 28th team after the additions next year of Nashville SC and Inter Miami, followed by Austin FC the following year. They have a fully funded stadium plan, a billionaire owner, some tax help from the city and a rich soccer history in St. Louis. They’ll make a perfect cross-state rival for Sporting Kansas City as well.
Previously, I did massive MLS Expansion Updates on a regular basis. I haven’t written one since last June. Partially due to the crushing time commitment that they required and partially because of the whole debacle with Anthony Precourt trying to move the Columbus Crew and then ultimately stealing an expansion slot with Austin FC. Watching him steal an expansion spot was ugly (though I’m glad Columbus aren’t moving). I won’t promise I’ll be doing big updates again, but I’ll definitely do updates more frequently than the nine month gap you’ve just experience. My apologies. — Chad Smith