With its announcement of two expansion clubs approaching, MLS has named four finalists in its current round of MLS expansion.
The slate of finalists includes four bids that have been viewed as frontrunners for some time, as it features Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Sacramento. (This should not be a surprise for our readers: these are the four favorites we listed earlier this month.) According to an announcement from MLS, representatives from all four bids will make formal presentations to the commissioner Don Garber and the league’s expansion committee on December 6 in New York. Additional expansion discussion will take place during a league board of governors meeting on December 14.
“The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” Garber said in a league statement. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”
In each of the four bids, there has been some action toward completing a stadium plan. FC Cincinnati is currently working with local officials on a proposal for a new stadium in Oakley, with construction of the $200-million venue being privately financed and the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County asked to contribute funds for infrastructure upgrades. FC Cincinnati has been viewed as an intriguing expansion candidate, thanks in no small part to its robust attendance figures in the USL.
Led by Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, Detroit’s bid was long focused on the construction of a new soccer-specific stadium at the site of an unfinished jail in downtown Detroit. However, the group recently announced that it would instead pursue upgrades at Ford Field–home to the NFL’s Lions–to accommodate MLS, effectively scrapping its pursuit of a new facility.
Nashville’s bid has found support among local leaders, as the Nashville Metro Council recently approved $225 million in bonding for a new stadium. The soccer-specific stadium would be constructed at The Fairgrounds Nashville. With a USL club set to begin play next year, Nashville’s MLS expansion push–led by John Ingram, with the backing of a slate of investors that includes the Wilf family (owners of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings)–is coming at a point where the city’s soccer scene appears to be growing.
In Sacramento, Sacramento Republic FC has already received city approval for the construction of a new stadium. Construction on that facility has already begun, and the club has announced a binding jersey sponsorship deal with UC Davis Health. Much like FC Cincinnati, Republic FC is looking to translate its strong support in the USL into a successful push for MLS expansion.
These four bids were among 12 that were submitted to MLS in January. Though no longer in the mix for the first two clubs to be announced by MLS, the remaining bids are considered contenders for an additional pair of expansion clubs that will be announced at a later date. Those candidates include Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
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