Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert announced on Tuesday that they are partnering to form an investor group to bring an MLS expansion club to downtown Detroit.
The efforts of Gores and Gilbert – whose teams just faced off in the first round of the NBA playoffs – are supported by MLS and Commissioner Don Garber, who recently announced that the league plans to grow to 28 teams and named Detroit as a city of interest.
The league confirmed that Garber will be in Detroit on Wednesday to meet with the prospective MLS owners regarding their expansion plan.
Gores and Gilbert issued a joint statement as part of the announcement:
“Detroit is rising and we know firsthand the power of sports to lift a community and drive a civic renaissance. We are very excited about the prospect of bringing Major League Soccer to Detroit and building an ownership group that represents a cross-section of investors.”
The group's plan includes the construction of a stadium in downtown Detroit. According to the release, the group is already “actively exploring and evaluating potential sites.”
“I’ve always believed a sports franchise is a community asset with the power to unite and inspire people,” Gores said in the statement. “I’m excited to partner with Dan and help in Detroit’s resurgence. Together we have all the tools we need to make a new team successful.”
“Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world with a passionate fan base and global reach,” Gilbert said in the same statement. “Bringing a team downtown will also further energize Detroit’s urban core, which is critical to the entire city’s overall health and vibrancy.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan issued a separate statement complimenting the news.
"I've been pushing for a Major League Soccer team to come to Detroit for some time," he said. "The fact that our citywide elementary school soccer league has grown from 600 players last year to more than 900 players this year is an indication of how successful a franchise would be in our city. I look forward to working with anyone who is committed to making the idea of an MLS franchise in Detroit a reality."
Soccer is the most popular sport in the state, according to the release, with 92,000 registered players in Michigan and "if Detroit is chosen for an MLS expansion team, it would become the most dense urban sports and entertainment district city in America with four major professional sports stadiums within a 10-15 minute walk: Ford Field, Comerica Park, the new Detroit Red Wings arena and the new MLS stadium."
The group also indicated that an MLS team would "complement the two lower division minor league soccer teams playing in Detroit."
Garber confirmed earlier this month during an expansion-related visit to Sacramento that MLS plans to add four teams to expand to a total of 24 clubs by 2018. Atlanta United FC are scheduled to join the league next year and LAFC will debut in 2018, while Minnesota United FC’s timeline for entry into the league has yet to be finalized.
Garber also expressed confidence to a group of Associated Press sports editors last week that David Beckham’s efforts to bring an MLS team to Miami are on track.
In addition to Sacramento and Detroit, the commissioner has mentioned St. Louis, San Diego, San Antonio and Austin as potential candidates for the round of expansion that will take MLS to 28 teams.