MLS Expansion: Here's what to know about the 12 cities to submit franchise bids
The MLS will likely expand to more cities in the near future
Major League Soccer received 12 new expansion bids on Tuesday as the league aims to add four more teams in the coming years to get to 28. With 22 teams right now, Los Angeles FC coming and possibly a Miami franchise, several cities are battling out to join the ever-growing league. The plan is to add two more teams to begin playing in 2020, and the entry fee is $150 million per team. Here's what to know.
Who put in a bid?
- Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith
- Stadium: A $175 million, 22,000-seat soccer stadium.
- American Financial Group CEO Carl Lindner III, owner of USL club Cincinnati
- Stadium: Between playing at the recently upgraded Nippert Stadium at the University of Cincinnati or building a soccer-specific stadium.
- Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert
- Stadium: A 25,000-seat soccer stadium, per the Detroit Free Press.
- Multiple partners, including Ersal Ozdemir, real estate developer and owner of Indy Eleven
- Stadium: A stadium that will cost over $100 million, per the Indianapolis Star.
Indy Eleven's bid includes a proposed 20,000-seat Downtown Indy stadium that will cost in excess of $100 million. https://t.co/KKrOG1Sx8O— IndyStar (@indystar) February 1, 2017
- Ingram Industries chairman John Ingram and former Tennessee Commissioner of Economic Development Bill Haggerty
- Stadium: No formal plan yet.
- Berke Bakay -- owner of the USL's Phoenix Rising
- Stadium: A soccer-specific stadium as part of other facilities on 15.6 acres, per the Phoenix Business Journal.
- Steve Malik, owner of North Carolina FC of NASL
- Stadium: There seems to be several options here, with the most obvious being to upgrade WakeMed Soccer Park or to build a soccer-specific stadium.
- San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York, former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and Kevin Nagle, owner of the USL's Sacramento Republic. According to the Sacramento Bee, Nagle submitted the bid to MLS under the name of "Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings," which is a corporation he controls. He is in talks with the Republic to obtain the rights to the brand. All of this has caused confusion among the Republic fan base, which is why the team released the following statement:
- Stadium: The city has approved a 20,000-plus-seat stadium, according to the Sacramento Business Journal.
- Spurs Sports & Entertainment
- Stadium: Expansion on Toyota Field, per the San Antonio Business Journal.
- Multiple partners, including former Qualcomm President Steve Altman
- Stadium: A privately-financed 30,000-seat stadium where Qualcomm Stadium currently sits.
- SC STL, led by part owner of the Boston Celtics's Paul Edgerley
- Stadium: The St. Louis Business Journal says plans are set for a $140 million stadium.
- Bill Edwards, owner of the USL's Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Stadium: A planned $80 million renovation for Al Lang Stadium, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Who has the best chance?
So many factors play into this, and a lot depends on stadium plans, but early favorites appear to be St. Louis, Cincinnati and San Diego. St. Louis is a soccer crazy city that, quite frankly, many expected would have a franchise at this point. The group has plans to fund a $140 million stadium, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.
Cincinnati FC is in the USL and is coached by former USMNT star John Harkes. They have averaged over 17,000 fans per game and brought in 35,061 for a friendly against Crystal Palace. The team does play at the University of Cincinnati, so the stadium situation would have to be worked out, but this is another good possibility because of the popularity and consistent attendance.
And San Diego, now without an NFL franchise, could soon have a 30,000-seat, privately financed stadium to replace Qualcomm Stadium, as the San Diego Union-Tribune points out. It would cost about $200 million for the stadium and it would be shared with the San Diego State University football team.
All of the 12 bids are promising, and each has made a case as to why it should be part of the league at some point.
Now, we sit back and wait to see how it all unfolds, as Major League Soccer review the bids, hold meetings, receive updates on plans and decide which cities are awarded expansion clubs. The expectation is for bids to be awarded at some point in 2017.
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