With Las Vegas out of MLS expansion race; Sacramento or Minneapolis?

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With Las Vegas officially out of the running to have an Major League Soccer franchise for the foreseeable future, two cities are now at the forefront of the league’s expansion plans.

Sacramento and Minneapolis.

[ RELATED: Vegas officially out ]

Both cities already have teams in the lower leagues of the North American soccer pyramid, possess ambitious stadium plans and have plenty of financial backing from renowned owners of other major league sports franchises. More importantly, both cities have solid soccer fanbases which could easily expand if an MLS team was granted to them.

Right now, Minneapolis appears to be a real frontrunner as MLS Commissioner Don Garber has spoken about the importance of having a team in Minnesota geographically, while Sacramento may be a little too close to the San Jose Earthquakes’ fanbase in northern California. Despite all of that, the race to become MLS 24th franchise is well and truly on as an announcement is expected this summer. With plenty of uncertainty around David Beckham’s franchise in Miami, plus new teams in Los Angeles and Miami to arrive in 2017, this may be the last expansion opportunity for a while.

There’s plenty to consider, so let’s take a close look at both potential MLS expansion cities…

Sacramento

WHO: USL club Sacramento Republic FC.
FINANCES: Backed by Jed York, CEO of the NFL’s 49ers. Plus a huge group of wealthy investors.
STADIUM: Plans for downtown stadium in place. Huge fan support, highest average crowd in USL history.
HISTORY: That history is just one (albeit very impressive) campaign. Is California’s capital soccer mad?
POPULATION: 480,00
POTENTIAL MLS RIVALS: San Jose, LA Galaxy, LA FC (LA teams five hour drive, two to San Jose)
RATING: 7/10 – After winning USL in 2014, having Preki as coach and a host of wealthy investors, there doesn’t seem to be much risk here. However, they’ve only had one season as a team. That’s the only sticking point.

Minneapolis

WHO: Two groups – Minnesota United of the NASL and the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
FINANCES: Minnesota United backed by Dr. McGuire, Timberwolves, Twins; the Vikings.
STADIUM: The Vikings will house the team in their new stadium, United want a downtown S.S.S.
HISTORY: United founded in 2010, formerly known as the Minnesota Stars, other pro teams since ’94.
POPULATION: 400,00
POTENTIAL MLS RIVALS: Chicago, Sporting KC (both a six hour plus drive away)
RATING
: 8/10 – With two competing groups, a young population and sustained crowds for lower leagues over a long period, they have the edge. But which group will get the MLS franchise?