MLS expansion: Sacramento and St Louis favorites to become next franchises

Sacramento and St Louis to make formal presentations to the MLS expansion committee with the view to becoming the 28th and 29th teams to enter MLS.

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Major League Soccer has revised its expansion plans by announcing that it hopes to have 30 teams in the coming years.

The decision, which was made by owners at an MLS board of governors meeting in Los Angeles last week, will see the league’s 28th and 29th franchises require an expansion fee of $200 million (£155m).

MLS said no official decision has been made on future expansion markets, but commissioner Don Garber’s office has been authorised to advance exclusive discussions with the Sacramento and St Louis ownership groups, with a view to the cities becoming home to MLS’s 28th and 29th teams.

Sacramento and St Louis will now make formal presentations to the MLS expansion committee in the coming weeks, with the league hoping to make a final decision on both prospective franchises before the All-Star Game in Orlando on July 31.

MLS said that its board of governors have deferred a decision regarding the expansion fee and timetable for the 30th team, although it added that it remains in discussions with several ownership groups in other cities.

MLS, which in 2015 set itself a target of 28 franchises, currently consists of 24 teams and has already confirmed the addition of David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC for 2020, while Austin FC will begin play in 2021.

“Professional soccer at all levels is thriving in the United States and Canada and we believe there are many markets that could support a successful MLS club,” said Garber.

“Expansion during the last 15 years has been enormously successful and a key driver behind the league’s continued rise, and we are pleased that some of the top business and community leaders representing great markets in North America are aggressively pursuing MLS expansion clubs.”

Sacramento’s MLS expansion bid was given a boost in January when billionaire Ron Burkle, who is part-owner of National Hockey League (NHL) giants the Pittsburgh Penguins, was named as the new lead investor in the United Soccer League’s (USL) Sacramento Republic.

The club then released further expansion plans earlier this month which included a new, privately-funded $252 million (£195m) stadium.

In response to the MLS announcement, Sacramento Republic issued a statement saying: ‘There isn’t a better fit for MLS than our city and [this] announcement is a testament to the strength of Sacramento’s bid, and most importantly, to the faith and devotion of Republic FC fans.

“We will continue our ongoing communication with the commissioner and with MLS and look forward to finalising all next steps to deliver MLS to Sacramento.”

The St Louis expansion bid, meanwhile, was revived in October with majority female ownership. The franchise’s ownership group comprises the Taylor family, owners of car rental company Enterprise Holdings, and also includes World Wide Technology chief executive Jim Kavanaugh.

Earlier this month, Goal profiled the teams most likely to become the 28th and 29th teams to enter MLS. 

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