Two more clubs are set to join the MLS ranks in 2017. Atlanta United and Minnesota United will bring the league up to 22 teams. LAFC (2018) and Miami (we’ll believe it when we see it) are set to follow them.
Today, Commissioner Don Garber announced the timeline we can expect for the introduction of the 25th and 26th teams, as well as a brief tease about 27 and 28.
The next two expansion spots up for grabs will be officially awarded “in the second or third quarter of 2017,” per MLSSoccer.com, with a goal to begin play by 2020. Those 25th and 26th franchises will each pay a one-time expansion fee of $150 million. Teams 27 and 28 are to be announced “at a later date.”
The league noted that ownership groups in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, and the Tampa Bay area are all gearing up to state their case for one of those four remaining expansion spots. Any would-be contender must submit its formal application to MLS before the end of January 2017.
MLS has stressed locally-based ownership (hey, CFG!), a proven market, and a workable stadium plan (hey again, CFG!) as its three main requirements for a serious expansion bid.
Suffice to say that it will be a while before the league is done expanding. But when that day comes, MLS brass won’t be able to exhale in ultimate relief— massive questions will still remain. Principal among them: what must the league do to replace the revenue it has relied upon from these one-time expansion fees? Simply assuming that TV contract money will somehow, some way be exponentially greater in five, seven, ten years isn’t exactly a strategy. This is a tough issue that the league will not be able to avoid.
If I’m Don Garber, I’m probably retiring or moving on before that specter becomes a truly harsh reality.
In the meantime, however, let’s see just how many Uniteds we can cram into this little ol’ league of ours.