- Major League Soccer is looking to expand to 28 teams
- Sacramento and St. Louis are the front-runners to join next
- Could an outsider city still stand a chance of winning an expansion bid?
Major League Soccer continues to grow across North America and this year added its 24th franchise in FC Cincinnati.
With three more clubs already approved to join the league shortly and many more cities in the running, odds favor Sacramento Republic FC as becoming the next expansion team.
Odds to be Next MLS Expansion City
|City||Odds at BetOnline|
*Odds taken March 16
In the coming years, three more teams are already set to join MLS with both Inter Miami and Nashville SC joining next season, and Austin FC in 2021.
The league has set a self-imposed cap at 28 teams for now, with any further expansion discussions to be tabled for the time being.
This means the race to be that 28th team is in full swing.
The next major discussion on the topic is scheduled for the league’s board of governors meeting in April. A decision is planned to be made by the end of the year and any expansion would require a fee of at least $150 million.
“We came out of that meeting feeling confident with where we sit. We’re in a great position.”https://t.co/ij5wQKvh8U
— Republic FC (@SacRepublicFC) March 14, 2019
Favorites Sacramento were in the running back in 2017 when the league narrowed their expansion candidates down to them, Nashville, Cincinnati, and Detroit. Much like this year’s MLS debutants, FC Cincinnati, Sacramento Republic FC currently ply their trade in the United Soccer League (USL).
Republic FC have been passed over previously due to the lack of finacial resources from previous ownership groups. That’s now changed with the addition of two new principle owners.
With Ron Burkle investing in Sacramento Republic FC and a proposed downtown stadium, it’s time to review exactly what’s in the works, as the ownership jockeys for a future MLS expansion team. #sportsbiz https://t.co/95NA0eU0HG pic.twitter.com/z6YbYWSd6U
— SoccerStadiumDigest (@thestadiumpitch) January 29, 2019
Matt Alvarez, a Hollywood film producer who co-founded Cube Vision with rapper Ice Cube and billionaire businessman Ron Burkle, who’s also a movie producer and owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League, have solidied Republic FC’s owernship group.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who recently signed a new five-year contract to run the league, has been vocal in his support for both Sacramento and also St. Louis.
Support For Expansion In St. Louis Growing
MLS expansion in St. Louis has been a hot topic ever since the city lost the Rams in the National Football League. Two years ago, plans stalled when public stadium financing was turned down by the city. The city does currently have Saint Louis FC, who also play in the USL.
The proposed St. Louis ownership group includes Jim Kavanaugh, chief executive of World Wide Technology, and the recent addition of the Taylor family of Enterprise Holdings.
MLS wants to see more corporate support from STL effort. Now we know ownership group interested in being expansion team No. 28, or nothing. “We're going to do it now,” Kindle Betz said. “We will probably not be here in a year." https://t.co/T5NlnQ0hxV #MLS4THELOU
— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) March 11, 2019
Garber recently visited St. Louis and was impressed with the support from executives and business owners. He also noted the group’s plan to build a stadium next to Union Station and just west of the downtown core.
“It really checks off a lot of boxes,” he said. “It’s got the right support from the public sector. Everybody’s feeling good about that.”
“It’s [stadium plan] got the right support from the public sector. Everybody’s feeling good about that,” ~ MLS Commissioner Don Garber
The commissioner did express some concerns over the lack of major corporate sponsorships thus far. Things like stadium naming rights and a jersey sponsor were mentioned.
Could A Longshot Be Next To Join MLS?
Right now it’s tough to call out one of these longer priced cities. The Indy Eleven of the USL were among the final ten candidates back in 2017, but seem to be out of contention as of now.
Odds seem to be stacked against cities like Indy, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Las Vegas according to Garber. “Those are cities that, should we ever decide to expand beyond 28 [teams], would have to be considered as part of a next round,” he said.
“Those are cities that, should we ever decide to expand beyond 28 [teams], would have to be considered as part of a next round,” ~ MLS Commissioner Don Garber
Additionally, for a city like Detroit, their ownership group stepping away from committing to building a soccer-specific stadium has dealt their bid a serious blow.
By 2021 Major League Soccer will have 27 clubs as Miami, Nashville, and Austin bring their clubs online. With a self-imposed cap of 28 teams, the race is on for a city to land the last expansion franchise. #sports #sportsbiz #expansion https://t.co/OiopjfgOce pic.twitter.com/v9VVJhcvhP
— Quathletics (@goQuathletics) March 13, 2019
Bet The Favorites As 28th MLS Team
Betting who will be the the 28th team to join MLS seems to be a two-horse race.
While St. Louis was once considered the favorite, the new ownership group in Sacramento seems to have tilted the scales in their favor.
MLS expansion requires three key components: corporate support, strong ownership and a viable stadium plan.
MLS expansion has spread rapidly over the past few years with 24 teams currently playing and 3 more committed to join.
— SI TV (@watch_SITV) February 20, 2019
At this point, both Sacramento and St. Louis seem to be the only cities close to checking all the boxes.
Personally, I’d bet Sacramento. But with both favorites offering plus-money returns, betting each city should lock in at least a small profit if either is selected later this year.