Major League Soccer is still on track to make an MLS expansion announcement before the end of year, most likely in the Dec. 19-20 timeframe.
We’re seeing a lot of activity from teams and cities before any potential MLS expansion announcement, but it doesn’t appear as though the schedule has really changed: MLS officials had always hewed to a schedule that had an initial MLS expansion announcement before the end of the year. And, this week, MLS officials reiterated that an MLS expansion announcement is likely Dec. 19-20. But there are a lot of moving parts here. There has been definite movement on new stadiums in Detroit and Nashville that would move them from favorites to locks, activity from FC Cincinnati, and the continued move on a new Sacramento Republic stadium really hasn’t changed much since the last time we handicapped MLS expansion in September.
So what’s the issue? Miami.
We know LAFC will be the 23rd MLS team and enter the league in 2018. But that puts the league at an odd number of teams, which isn’t optimal when it comes to scheduling. Many have always assumed David Beckham’s new Miami team would be the 24th MLS team, but that’s not necessarily a lock right now. The quest for a new Miami stadium has always been punctuated by starts and stops, and it now appears we’re at a stop.
Which means that a 2018 entry for Miami is not a sure thing. And while we remain confident that the top four candidates we listed in September are still the top four contenders to land an expansion team, the timing is now suspect. Will we see a team other than Miami added for 2018? If so, that’s good news for Cincinnati fans: Nippert Stadium is a fine temporary facility, and there’s already a fan base that comes out to USL games in droves. That also relieves some pressure on Beckham and crew to deliver the new stadium, it allows Sacramento Republic to play another year in USL before moving to a new downtown stadium, and it allows Detroit and Nashville to develop their stadiums for a second expansion round. Really, this is now turning into a scheduling issue as much as a selection issue — and there is an abundance of riches for MLS.