MLS Expansion is happening at a rapid pace. Before diving into today’s update it’s probably worth your time to check out the long list of updates from The Blue Testament on MLS Expansion. Even though we just did an update on August 1st, more news is breaking.
St. Louis is In
It won’t be made official until next Tuesday by Major League Soccer, but “St. Louis has secured an expansion team” according to multiple sources that talked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis will provide the perfect cross-state rival for Sporting Kansas City and with multiple teams set to join that are East of St. Louis, one would assume that the future St. Louis MLS club will be placed in the Western Conference. Nothing has been stated about the conference alignment, but I personally think we could end up with three conferences with a Central Division springing up (more on that another day).
For the honor to join the league, Carolyn Kindle Betz and the other members of the ownership group will shell out a record $200 million expansion fee. That’s up from the $150 million that last several clubs have paid to enter the league.
Sacramento are widely expected to be the 29th team, but their bid may have hit a snag (stop me if you’ve heard that before). The hot candidate right now for the 30th team is a bid from Charlotte, North Carolina that is fronted by Carolina Panthers (NFL) owner David Tepper.
Once considered a hot bid to get into MLS, even ahead of some teams that are already in, Detroit has fallen off the radar in recent months. The Athletic had a piece on why they stalled and why there is still hope.
What effectively killed their bid was their sudden unwillingness to build a soccer-specific stadium. They had been trying to work out a deal on the failed jail site but had reached an impasse with the city. In a desperate move to try to qualify for the round of expansion that ultimately went to Nashville SC and later FC Cincinnati, they moved their stadium plan to Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.
As a part of that move, they added the Ford family to the bid, bringing the number of billionaires involved up to three along with the owners of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons.
“I’ve been in regular conversations with [Detroit],” Garber was quoted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying in March of this year. “And we still struggle with their stadium plan. We think that in order for us to be successful in that city, we need a soccer-specific stadium. And the options that we’re presented with today are only at Ford Field.”
The lifeline for Detroit? That MLS may go beyond 30 teams. The problem with that is, if they don’t move back to a soccer-specific stadium plan, it might not matter. There are plenty of cities willing to build stadiums (or at least owners willing to pay private funds to do so).
If St. Louis is in, what about the presumed 29th team, Sacramento Republic FC?
“We are in daily discussions with Major League Soccer as we finalize the agreement to bring an expansion club to Sacramento,” Sacramento Republic said in an email statement to the Sacramento Bee. “We are deeply appreciative of the ongoing efforts of Commissioner Garber, his MLS colleagues and owners, the Republic FC investor group and Mayor Darrell Steinberg, as we work in unison to get the deal done for our city and our incredibly patient fan base.”
In other words: they don’t know anything new. MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said in the past he hoped that St. Louis and Sacramento would be ready by 2022. One team sounds like they’ll be making that move. Sacramento, as always, are up in the air.
- FC Cincinnati put out a timeline of their path to MLS.
- USL President Jake Edwards talks USL Championship and League One expansion as well as on the possibility of Promotion and Relegation in USL.
- The San Jose Earthquakes traded midfielder Anibal Godoy to 2020 MLS expansion club Nashville SC for a boatload of allocation money.
- Heineken was announced as the first corporate sponsor of 2020 expansion team Inter Miami CF.
- The Oklahoma City Energy FC are talking new stadium plans. It won’t be big enough for MLS at just 8,000 to 10,000 seats, but it shows the city is ambitious to grow the game.
- Another potential future MLS club, Louisville City, will open their new 14,000 seat stadium in 2020.