With Atlanta United FC beginning play next spring and Los Angeles FC tabbed for 2018, the scene shifts to other markets that MLS plans to expand to, namely the Twin Cities and Miami. Today, during the MLS SuperDraft, league commissioner Don Garber laid out the league's plans as they move toward having 24 teams by 2020. While the league is very committed to returning to South Florida, things hinge on David Beckham and his ownership group nailing things down for a soccer-specific stadium.
That might pave the way for Minnesota United FC to "possibly" make their debut alongside Atlanta next year.
"Possibly, but no decision has been made there," Garber said. "It's conceivable. We've obviously had conversations with Bill McGuire and their ownership group but we've still got some work to do to determine if that can happen."
Minnesota United have already announced that they plan to open their new SSS in Saint Paul in 2018, meaning that if they do indeed join the league next year, they will need to find a temporary home while their new stadium is being completed. Those temporary venues could include Target Field (home of MLB's Minnesota Twins) or TCF Bank Stadium (which hosted the NFL's Minnesota Vikings while their new stadium, US Bank Stadium, was being completed). Clearly, things are moving quicker for Minnesota, so if they are to move up to MLS in 2017, they certainly have more of their i's dotted and t's crossed than the Miami group.
"I'm...less confident about Miami (starting play in 2018). That doesn't mean we're not focused on Miami as our 24th team ... Every day something is happening down that that we're engaged in or read about or speak to (Beckham's ownership partner) Tim Leiweke about, so maybe an update soon."
As for further expansion, Garber did mention two cities that were in the mix: St. Louis and Sacramento. St. Louis, of course, saw the NFL vote 30-2 to relocate the Rams back to Los Angeles after a 20-year absence. With the city welcoming an expansion USL side in 2014 and seeing Busch Stadium host a 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines last year, the league has had its eyes set on the Midwestern city, and has for a while. Sacramento Republic FC have drawn well in its first two seasons in USL (winning the league championship in their debut season) and have also found themselves as a candidate for a MLS franchise.
"St. Louis has been on our radar screen as long as the league has been in existence...We've never been able to find the right investor (or) right stadium solution...but we know that there is support for a facility in a great location and we've had discussions with (potential investors)...
"St. Louis is probably, along with Sacramento, kind of leading the pack, if you will, but it's no different than a 5,000-meter run. Sometimes the first guy out of the gate doesn't finish the race, and sometimes they finish third."