MLS announces expansion process and timeline

NEW YORK—The process for Major League Soccer's next round of expansion has been set.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday that Teams 25 and 26 will be announced during the second or third quarter of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150 million each, and begin MLS play by 2020. Teams 27 and 28 will be announced at a later date, at a price delivered in conjunction with the timeline.

“There is tremendous interest in professional soccer across the United States and Canada,” Commissioner Garber said. “Since announcing plans to expand to 28 clubs late last year, many potential ownership groups have contacted us, and numerous public officials have stated their desire to bring an MLS expansion team to their city. We look forward to reviewing expansion applications in the coming months and conducting formal meetings in 2017 with possible team owners.”

Garber initially revealed in December that the league would continue expanding to 28 teams. Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC enter the league next season, which bumps the league to 22 teams; LAFC is slated to follow in 2018. According to a league statement, MLS is making progress with plans for an expansion team in Miami (No. 24).

The league acknowledged ownership groups from 10 markets have publicly expressed interest in securing an MLS expansion team: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Interested expansion owners must submit applications by Jan. 31, 2017.  After review, a series of in-person meetings will take place during the first and second quarters of 2017.

Qualified applicants will submit documentation that focuses on the following three areas: 1) Ownership – Structure and financial informations; 2) Stadium – details on proposed site, financing, approvals and support; and 3) Financial Projections, Corporate Support and Soccer Support – a business plan, projections and commitment letters for naming rights and a jersey-front sponsor, along with an overview of support from the soccer community.

Three key aspects are considered top priorities when reviewing candidates: 

  1. A committed local ownership group that has a passion for the sport, a deep belief in Major League Soccer and the resources to invest in the infrastructure to build the sport in their respective market.
  2. A market that has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events, is located in a desirable geographic location and is attractive to corporate sponsors and television partners.
  3. A comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will have a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.

Major League Soccer’s expansion committee consists of ownership representatives from five clubs including Jonathan Kraft (New England Revolution), Andrew Hauptman (Chicago Fire), Anthony Precourt (Columbus Crew SC), Phil Rawlins (Orlando City SC) and Jay Sugarman (Philadelphia Union).

MLS Expansion Timeline

First Season Team
1998 Chicago Fire, Miami Fusion
2005 Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA
2007 Toronto FC
2008 San Jose Earthquakes
2009 Seattle Sounders FC
2010 Philadelphia Union
2011 Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
2012 Montreal Impact
2015 Orlando City SC, New York City FC
2017 Atlanta United, Minnesota United FC
2018 Los Angeles Football Club
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