A decision on MLS expansion should be made in the next six months, as MLS Commissioner Don Garber issues a strong warning to Miami officials about the need for a downtown stadium.
With MLS expanding by two teams next season with Orlando City FC and NYCFC, followed by a new Atlanta team and LAFC in two years, the assumption was that there would be room for only one more team in coming years — an assumption that also includes the addition of a Miami expansion team. (As part of his deal with the league, David Beckham was promised an expansion team at a deep discount). But after efforts to land a downtown waterfront stadium failed, Miami is now far from a lock — and expansion is up in the air. Garber, in his annual state of the league address before the MLS championship, had some strong words for Miami officials who opposed a downtown stadium:
“We love Miami. Miami is a very cool emerging market in this country as an influencer city….It is the gateway to Latin America. There is so much incredible ethnic diversity going on in that community. We all know there have been some pro sports struggles there, so people question whether Miami can support an MLS team, I believe it can, but only if it has the right stadium. If we don’t have the right stadium, we’re not going to Miami….We don’t have that stadium finalized today, so until we get it finalized, we can’t make a commitment to Miami….We want to be in Miami, for all those city leaders who are listening, help us get the right stadium downtown and this is a very easy process for us to go through.”
That leaves for the possibility of two expansion teams chosen from Minneapolis, Sacramento and Las Vegas. MLS officials met with groups from all three cities (two, in the case of Minneapolis), and Garber says the league will indeed be at 24 teams before the end of the decade — if not sooner.