Don Garber announced on Wednesday the four finalist cities — Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento — for two Major League Soccer expansion teams to be awarded in the next round of franchise expansion.
Owners and officials representing each of the four respective cities will make their formal pitches to the MLS expansion committee on Dec. 6, followed by a board of governors meeting on Dec. 14 and an official announcement “before the end of the year.”
“The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities. We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”
Sacramento’s bid, which has been an odds-on favorite for more than a year, would see Sacramento Republic make the leap from USL to MLS, doing so in a privately-financed stadium which has already seen pre-construction work begin at the downtown railyard site. Cincinnati, another popular pick among soccer fans and the media alike, has seen similar — and in some cases, even greater — success in USL. Their stadium deal, however, remains far less of a certainty as the ownership group and city council have yet to agree terms of a financial package for the $70-75 million requested.
The group in Nashville recently received approval from its city council for $225 million in revenue bonds to build a $275-million stadium on the city fairgrounds. Nashville SC, which was founded in 2016 and fielded an under-23 PDL in 2017, will begin playing in USL in 2018. Detroit’s bid centers around Ford Field, the 65,000-seat dome which is home to the NFL’s Detroit Lions, despite statements from the league which in the past have made clear a desire for soccer-specific stadiums.
The tough question at the end of the road — one that Garber and Co. presumably (hopefully?) have considered and for which they have a plan — is: what happens when the league finally reaches 28 teams and the $100-150 million expansion fees, which have become the most reliable injection of consistent revenue for the league, come to an end?
There’s also the matter of David Beckham’s Miami project, which is now in its 47th month (not an exaggeration) of attempts to bring a team back to south Florida. How much longer will/can MLS hold a spot open for Beckham when there are other (albeit, far less desirable) options which are further along and much more of a safe bet?