In recent years Major League Soccer has been expanding at a rapid pace. 2017 marked the beginning of the current state of expansion for the MLS as Atlanta United and Minnesota United joined America’s top flight of soccer. The next year saw LAFC, owned by a host of celebrities such as Magic Johnson and Will Farrell just to name a few, adding a third team to the list of California teams and marketed more towards Los Angeles’ Hispanic community. This season FC Cincinnati joined to fill a massive hole in the Midwest in a city starving for soccer. Meanwhile, in the next two seasons Nashville, Miami and Austin will bring the MLS team count to 27 and in 2022 either Sacramento or St. Louis will field team number 28. Which the MLS will decide on who gets that honor soon.
But on Thursday, April 18th, at the Board of Governors meeting in Carson, California the MLS announced that they will keep the expansion going and add two more teams after the 28th team is announced. It would stand to reason that the team that loses out on the 28th team would become the 29th and just come into the league the same year because the St. Louis and Sacramento plans are in the exact same stages of development. So, that leaves just one more city to get into the MLS and the question on that is running through every U.S. soccer fans head is what city will get awarded team number 30. So here are some of the best candidates for team 30.
This one is almost a no-brainer; Phoenix has shown they can show up and support their teams even when they’re bad. Phoenix was also a frontrunner for team 28 until they unveiled their stadium plan and the MLS rejected the proposal because the stadium had an open roof which would be a potential safety hazard because the MLS plays most of its season in the Spring and Summer. But if ownership puts a roof on their proposal then they will be in the become frontrunners again.
The Motor City was also in talks with the MLS for the last team in this round of expansion. The city has a good fan base and a solid plan to build a successful club. But the MLS decided it didn’t like the idea of playing soccer in Ford Field which was originally meant for football and concerts. While the owners did have a plan to work with the Ford family to renovate the stadium and add in soccer sightlines. The Board of Governors had already soured on the idea of the team playing in Ford Field. If they come back with a better proposal or a soccer-specific stadium, they will have a strong bid.
Indy is a new one on the list of possible expansion teams. They really didn’t have a strong bid coming into the time deadline to apply for the 28th MLS spot. But now with the success of Indy Eleven in attracting fans and how well things have gone in Lucas Oil Stadium for the Eleven the MLS might look at Indianapolis differently when they consider cities in this next round of
expansion. With the news that came in today about the Indiana General Assembly announcing they have approved a bill that would allow for a soccer-specific stadium to be built a downtown that only requires just require Governor Holcomb’s signature. Indianapolis has set itself up in a good position to be considered for the 30th MLS team.
Since 2017 Charlotte has been considered a long shot for expansion. Even Raleigh was looked at as a better option for a team in the Carolinas, that was until billionaire David Tepper bought the Carolina Panthers. Since he purchased the Panthers, Tepper has been extremely vocal about bringing an MLS team to Bank of America Stadium. While one of two people may need to invest money into the project for Charlotte to get a team many people have similar feelings about Nashville when they placed their expansion bid. All Charlotte needs is some investors ready who are willing to bring an MLS team to the Queen City.
All four of these cities have set themselves up well to get the final MLS expansion spot. All these cities have a strong background in soccer and can easily attract fans and the MLS can avoid situations like Houston or Dallas where they have trouble putting fans in seats. Some may have stronger bids than others now. But like I said earlier in the article anything could happen that can change the Board of Governors minds.