The next major announcement regarding MLS expansion will likely be made after the 2018 MLS season begins, according to the latest update.
In December, MLS considered expansion bids from a group of four finalists that included Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento. It was initially anticipated that the league would choose two of those bids before 2017 concluded, but MLS announced in December that it would select Nashville and hold off on finalizing any decisions regarding the other expansion bids.
With the 2018 season set to begin on March 3, it is looking unlikely that MLS will decide whether to choose Cincinnati, Detroit, or Sacramento before then. On Friday, Sports Illustrated reported that MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said that there is no firm deadline in place for making the next announcement. It was also indicated that all three of those bids remain up for consideration, but that Cincinnati has made the most progress. More from SI.com:
“Although we haven’t finalized any deals and all of the finalist markets remain under consideration, we’ve made the most progress in Cincinnati,” MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told SI.com on Friday.
Reflecting on Garber’s January comment, it turns out there are lots of Is to dot and a T to cross in “Cincinnati.” The USL club owned primarily by local insurance and financial services billionaire Carl Lindner III remains the heavy favorite.
“We don’t have, and don’t need to have, a fixed deadline, and we will wait until all of the necessary elements are in place before selecting the next club,” Abbott said. “Whether the announcement is in a few weeks or a couple months is dependent on finalizing the details, but I don’t anticipate that it will be an extended period of time.”
Cincinnati’s stadium situation is complex. The team has either three sites or no sites, depending on how particular you want to be. The clearest path to an arena runs through Oakley, a growing neighborhood about five miles northeast of central Cincinnati. The club will get $51 million in infrastructure funding in Oakley—FCC will finance construction of the stadium itself—and MLS typically is reluctant to turn its back on public money. But it also typically prefers to be closer to downtown, and the league would rather see FCC play in the West End or even in Newport, Kentucky, which is just across the Ohio river.
In Cincinnati, FC Cincinnati has been making a public case of late for constructing a new stadium in the city’s West End. Under that plan, a new MLS venue would be built on the site of the existing Taft High School’s Stargel Stadium, which the club would replace by constructing a new facility at a nearby site that has been slated for a Citirama. Local officials–including Cincinnati Public Schools board members–will have to approve the plan in order for it to move forward. However, community opposition has surfaced, as residents are expressing concerns about quality-of-life issues that they believe the stadium could present.
In Sacramento’s case, Sacramento Republic FC officials were recently reported to be in discussions with three billionaires about a potential investment in the team. Sacramento is in need of more investment to back its plan, which includes the concept of a new downtown stadium. Detroit’s bid, meanwhile, still calls for sharing the existing Ford Field with the NFL’s Lions rather than the construction of a new soccer-specific stadium.
As noted, MLS announced Nashville bid in December, but has yet to announce an official launch date for the team. Miami, which was considered as part of a separate process, was formally awarded a team in late January, and it is expected to begin play in 2020.
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