Report: Three cities finalists for two MLS expansion franchises

Sacramento Republic FC
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The race for the next two Major League Soccer franchises is reaching a conclusion.

[ MORE: Latest MLS Expansion rankings ]

With 12 cities waiting for a decision from MLS in mid-December about which two bids were successful in their quest for teams 24 and 25, Grant Wahl from Sports Illustrated is reporting that the two new teams will come from two of Sacramento, Nashville and Cincinnati.

As you’ve already worked out by now (and probably by the end of first grade), two into three doesn’t go.

In our MLS expansion rankings last week we ranked Nashville as numero uno, Sacramento in second spot and FC Cincinnati in third.

Since then Cincinnati’s push for a new soccer-specific stadium is gathering steam and a jersey sponsorship deal for a potential MLS team has already been lined up for both FCC and Sacramento.

[ MORE: Beckham’s Miami franchise almost official ]

Per SI.com, the MLS owners meeting will take place on Dec. 14 in New York City and that’s when the decision about the next two teams to join MLS will be made.

“From talking to several insiders, I’m being told the two expansion teams will likely come from a group of three cities that includes Sacramento, Nashville and Cincinnati,” Wahl said.

Previous reports had stated that Nashville has been awarded a team due to their stadium deal being rubber-stamped and a strong financial commitment from the City Council, while Sacramento has long been the favorite for an MLS expansion franchise with work already beginning on a soccer-specific stadium for Sacramento Republic FC of the USL given their strong fanbase over multiple years in the lower leagues and also a strong ownership group.

Cincinnati is the real wrinkle in all of this and given their record-breaking crowds in their first two seasons in USL at Nipper Stadium (home to the University of Cincinnati Football team) it is so hard to ignore the huge potential in Cincy, even if MLS is insisting that a new expansion team has to have a soccer-specific stadium deal lined up. Is that really necessary anymore?

Look at Atlanta United this season. Detroit’s MLS expansion bid certainly did and has changed their stadium deal to Ford Field which can be reconfigured for MLS games and then extra cash saved from not spending a new stadium, a la Atlanta, could be spent on the team instead.

In truth, awarding all three cities of Sacramento, Cincinnati and Nashville an MLS expansion franchise would be the fairest way to do this as all three are way ahead of their expansion rivals. Will it happen? Probably not, but it’s something MLS’ owners can seriously consider in their meeting next month. If you’re going to add four new teams (plus LAFC joining in 2018 and David Beckham’s team in Miami finally seeming likely to happen, so six new franchises total to take the number to 28) in the next few years anyway, why wait if three are ready right now?

Detroit and Phoenix are the only other cities from the current group of 12 which are anywhere close to securing franchises but they’ll likely have to wait for the next round of expansion with another two teams to be named at a yet to be determined date, but likely sometime next year. There’s a real argument to be made that adding three new teams next month makes sense for MLS. Which punish one of Cincinnati, Sacramento or Nashville?

Add into the mix Beckham’s franchise in Miami finally getting the green light with an official announcement to arrive in the “coming months” and the Columbus Crew’s situation regarding a potential move to Austin, Texas and the crazy world of MLS expansion has reached fever-pitch.

Expect plenty more reports between now and mid-December about which cities have sealed the two MLS “golden tickets” as they pay $150 million for a new franchise.