On the heels of the approval of FC Cincinnati’s bid, commissioner Don Garber is indicating that no firm plans have been set for future MLS expansion.
On Tuesday, MLS officially announced its approval of an expansion bid from FC Cincinnati, effectively ending a round that also included the acceptance of a proposal from Nashville. Cincinnati and Nashville were joined by Sacramento and Detroit in a group of four finalists considered by the league in December; Nashville was approved that month, but MLS held off on its next decision until this week.
In early 2017, a total of 12 bids were submitted for what was anticipated to be a process that would result in four expansion teams. That leaves MLS with some options to consider going forward, but Garber recently indicated that the league has not set any firm plans for future expansion. Discussions with Detroit and Sacramento are continuing, while MLS is leaving its options open when it comes to other candidates. More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:
During a Tuesday interview with The Enquirer prior to FC Cincinnati’s formal introduction to MLS, league commissioner Don Garber said conversations were ongoing with Sacramento and Detroit – the two finalists that fell short in the first round of expansion –and other markets that have been spoken of favorably by observers of the expansion landscape like San Diego and San Antonio.
Garber rattled off a list of some emerging markets that are gaining in the expansion race, too.
There was no mention of Indianapolis, Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, or Tampa/St. Petersburg, all of which were part of the original group of 12 cities to apply for expansion but saw their bids stall irrevocably or simply peter out.
“No specific details on the teams or even the timing of the next round. What I will say is we started with 12 and now we’re down to a handful of markets where we still have ongoing discussions,” Garber said. “Very productive discussions with Sacramento, as well as in Detroit where we’re working with that ownership group on possible modifications of Ford Field that could, perhaps, make that city more MLS ready than it is today.
Certainly the landscape of ongoing bids includes some unresolved issues. Detroit’s push was hampered by its proposal to use Ford Field, while Sacramento Republic FC has been left to look for additional investment. Another bid that generated significant buzz when it was unveiled last year was San Diego, where FS Investors pitched a new MLS stadium as part of the larger SoccerCity development in Mission Valley. SoccerCity is subject to a November referendum, and it will be on the ballot with a competing proposal that calls for a new San Diego State University football stadium on the same site.
Any of those bids could gather new momentum, and MLS will also have a pool of options that includes possibilities such as Phoenix. For now, MLS is planning for FC Cincinnati to begin play next year with teams and Nashville and Miami starting competition in the following years. Adding more teams remains a goal for the league, but it has time to sort out its options and allow expansion candidates the opportunity to address any major questions.
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