MLS Expanding To 30 Teams With St. Louis, Sacramento As Frontrunners
MLS owners at the league's BOG meeting Thursday decided to "expand by three teams to 30 and enter into 'exclusive, formal discussions' with the top two bidders -- St. Louis and Sacramento -- for spots in the league," according to a front-page piece by David Hunn of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The decision "ended weeks of speculation on which city's bid would win." The league had "long said it would expand only to 28." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said St. Louis and Sacramento had two "very, very strong bids." Meanwhile, the owners also voted to increase the cost of the next two teams by $50M each, "bumping the expansion fee" from $150M to $200M. An expansion fee for the 30th team was deferred. Garber cautioned that the vote "did not grant teams to Sacramento and St. Louis." He added that the league has "not set a timeline for the 30th team." It is "in discussions with several other cities." Garber said that MLS officials "called the ownership groups in both St. Louis and Sacramento minutes after the meeting ended" to "invite them to make formal presentations within the next few weeks to the MLS expansion committee." Garber hopes to have a "final decision before the MLS All-Star game at the end of July" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/19).
LONG TIME COMING: Sacramento officials said that they will "be ready to launch construction" of a $252M, 22,000-seat stadium in the downtown railyards "within months of getting the official nod from the league." Garber said that he has "great confidence" that the Sacramento contingent "will be able to make an acceptable presentation when the league and the city group meet in the next few weeks." He added that the league "does want to see how strong city corporate support is, and wants to see final details of the Sacramento group's downtown stadium plans." In Sacramento, Tony Bizjak in a front-page piece notes USL club Sacramento Republic FC has "agreed to fund all construction costs and has a deal with the city to cover infrastructure." The stadium plan also has been "approved by all the necessary city departments." Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that it is "permitted and ready to be built" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/19). Also in Sacramento, Marcos Breton the city is "proof MLS dreams can come true." The city has "no business joining" MLS, because a "mere six years ago Sacramento wasn't on the MLS map." It "wasn't in the MLS solar system" and "wasn't even in the neighboring solar system." Sacramento "bought in" to Republic FC, and the venture has been a "fine melding of Sacramento's love of communal gatherings, locally grown food, locally brewed beer and local music" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/19).
WHAT'S NEXT? YAHOO SPORTS' Doug McIntyre writes it "wouldn't be a surprise if MLS got to 32 within the next decade." The NFL is "already there" and the NHL "will add a 32nd team" in '21 (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/19). SI.com's Brian Straus noted Charlotte, Phoenix, Raleigh, Detroit, San Diego and Indianapolis are "among those cities whose expansion hopes may be rekindled thanks to Thursday's announcement" (SI.com, 4/18).