MLS expansion rankings: Who are the favorites?

Nashville SC/Twitter
1 Comment

The big news in the MLS expansion world this week was the City Council of Nashville, Tennessee granting public funds for a soccer-specific stadium in Music City.

[ MORE: Garber gives expansion update ]

That leaves Nashville Soccer Club with a huge advantage over the rest of the MLS expansion field with their $275 million stadium plan ready to roll. The likes of Detroit, St. Louis and San Diego have all struggled in securing public funds for a stadium, so far, and their hopes hang in the balance.

With that in mind, now seems like a good time to speculate on how the 12 cities vying for MLS expansion stack up, especially with an announcement expected in the new few weeks.

Two cities will be announced as the winners of the next two MLS expansion franchises by the end of December, with a further two from this list of 12 at a yet to be announced date. Add into all of this LAFC kicking off in 2018, David Beckham still trying to bring a franchise to Miami and the uncertain future of the Columbus Crew in Columbus as their owner weighs up a move to Austin, Texas, and there is plenty to sort out.

Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, and his expansion committee have been traveling around and seeing the bids of multiple cities up close and personal in recent months and various interviews along the way have both complicated and cleared the expansion picture a little.

Below you will find our rankings of the 12 cities fighting for MLS expansion.


  1. Nashville – Stadium deal in place close to downtown and a growing sports market. Huge crowds for international games and friendlies. Seems nailed on
  2. Sacramento – Stadium deal in place, Sacramento Republic have had success and big crowds in USL. Past ownership issues over MLS deal sorted
  3. Cincinnati – Huge crowds in USL but stadium plan a stumbling block. Plans ongoing. Nippert a ready-made venue. Biggest losers from Nashville’s rise
  4. Phoenix – Financial backing is there, Drogba’s on board and stadium plans are in place. Phoenix the real dark horse?
  5. Detroit – Bid hurt by the deal for a stadium downtown collapsing. Will Ford Field as an alternate home put MLS off?
  6. San Antonio – Columbus potentially moving to Austin impacts this bid but Toyota Field is ready and big crowds for international games impressive
  7. Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg – Expensive redevelopment of Al Lang Stadium key to this bid but Rowdies have a strong, loyal fanbase
  8. Raleigh/Durham – NASL’s problems mean NCFC likely to move to USL soon, but will the crowds be big enough to woo MLS?
  9. San Diego – Lots of big names on board but the Soccer City development at Qualcomm has stalled. A big ask now
  10. St. Louis – See above. Such a shame too given STL’s soccer heritage. If they can get a stadium deal one day, you feel like MLS beckons
  11. Charlotte – No public financing or funding for a stadium deal has seen this bid stall. Competing with Raleigh/Durham was ill advised
  12. Indianapolis – NASL’s Indy Eleven have a loyal following but lack of funds to support an MLS expansion franchise mean this bid is a pipe dream