Instead of expanding from 24 to 28 teams, Major League Soccer will now include 30 teams at some point in the future.
MLS made the announcement on April 18. “Professional soccer at all levels is thriving in the United States and Canada, and we believe there are many markets that could support a successful MLS club,” Commissioner Don Garber said. “Expansion during the last 15 years has been enormously successful and a key driver behind the league’s continued rise, and we are pleased that some of the top business and community leaders representing great markets in North America are aggressively pursuing MLS expansion clubs.”
Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF begin play in 2020, and the league’s 27th club, Austin FC, debuts in 2021. Teams 28 and 29 — which each will pay a $200 million expansion fee — could be announced as early as the 2019 MLS All Star Game on July 31, according to SBNation.
The league says thecommissioner’s office is in advanced discussions with St. Louis and Sacramento for those two spots. Ownership groups representing both markets will make formal presentations to MLS leadership and the league’s Expansion Committee that will address the following:
• Final stadium plan
• Commitments of corporate support
• Composition of ownership group
• Detailed economics on funding
• Strategic plans for fan development
• Commitments on player development
• Details on community programs
Other cities hoping to land an MLS team, according to SI.com, include Phoenix, Detroit, San Diego, Indianapolis, Raleigh, N.C., and Charlotte, N.C.
Even before the MLS expansion announcement, Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes predicted the league will top out at 40 teams: “At one point, I thought we were going to go to 32,” he said in February. “I guarantee we aren’t stopping there. We’re gonna go to 40. … That’s not me having any insight or whatever. I just think that there are so many different owners that are lining up to be involved.”