Did Don Garber hint towards next MLS expansion markets?

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MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke to Yahoo about the Columbus Crew’s ongoing situation where owner Anthony Precourt is considering moving the franchise to Austin, Texas in 2019.

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Garber spoke at length about the Crew’s record as one of the most successful teams in MLS over the past few years and about Precourt’s drastic approach in trying to force a new stadium deal in downtown Columbus, Ohio with talk of possible relocation.

With the MLS commish stating talks about the Crew’s future were lined up in the coming days, something very interesting cropped up.

However, perhaps the most interesting nugget was that Garber mentioned the same four MLS expansion cities as he did during his address at the 2017 MLS All-Star Game in Chicago back in August.

Of course, Garber has mentioned multiple expansion cities in various media appearances in 2017 but it seems quite significant that the same four cities keep cropping up.

“We will make the decision to add two [expansion teams] this December. We have 12 cities who have submitted bids to be in the final four. We are going through a very comprehensive process. Just the other day the City of Nashville has been very supportive and has gotten both the elected folks as well as the people in the community to get behind public support for a stadium very close to downtown. Cincinnati is doing a similarly great job. Great progress in Sacramento and Detroit. Lot of activity and over the next years we will become a 28-team league.”

With 12 cities vying for the next four expansion places in MLS (the contenders, in no particular order are Cincinnati, San Antonio, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Charlotte, St. Louis, Detroit, Sacramento, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Phoenix and Indianapolis) the fact that Garber has mentioned the same four cities on multiple occasions may give some locations hope over others.

Reports have suggested that Nashville has jumped right to the top of the list in recent months after MLS’ visit to Tennessee’s capital city, but with trips lined up in the next few months to other potential expansion cities there will likely be similar positive vibes around their chances.

Looking at it from the outside, the four cities Garber mentioned appear to be right at the top of the list of expansion cities.

Cincinnati has FC Cincinnati behind the bid who are breaking attendance records all over the place in USL and have a solid owner, fanbase and everything is set up for them to step right into MLS. Sacramento has the same and an awesome soccer specific stadium site lined up, while Detroit is also working hard on a stadium deal and Nashville’s growing reputation as a sports town (helped largely by the Predators’ run to the Stanley Cup finals) has seen their strong ownership group work closely with the mayors office to negotiate a stadium plan.

Between now and December it will be intriguing to see the two cities who arrive in MLS but if I had to select two right now it would be Cincinnati and Sacramento due to their large fanbases, success in USL and their geographic locations to link up several current MLS cities with new regional rivals.

That’s just my take.