MLS Commissioner Don Garber sees expansion opportunity in San Diego

LOS ANGELES – Just 48 hours after the Chargers announced they were moving to Los Angeles and would play at the LA Galaxy's home at StubHub Center in 2017, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was scheduled to speak with San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer regarding the possibility of MLS expansion.

“We have spent a lot of time down there,” Garber told reporters following the first round of the MLS SuperDraft on Friday. “There is a very good group that’s come together. We know the investor prospects well. I’ve been there quietly probably two or three times. I’ll be down there for the [US national team] game. I think it would be a great MLS city."

Time is of the essence as the application deadline for teams 25, 26, 27 and 28 rapidly approaches. Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC embark on their inaugural MLS seasons in 2017, LAFC will following in 2018 and Garber said he remains confident David Beckham’s Miami project will come to fruition and become the league’s 24th team.

In December, 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.

Garber also addressed the expansion landscape in St. Louis on Friday after a bill proposal fell through which would have seen the city inject $80 million into a stadium for an expansion MLS club.

“I remain hopeful. St Louis is a great soccer city and it’s been 22 years that we’ve been thinking it would be a perfect city for an MLS team. It needed a passionate, committed ownership group including local people. We have that now. It needed a stadium plan, and we believe we have a good plan for a stadium. Hopefully we can keep moving it forward.”

SC STL released a statement on Thursday reiterating their commitment to bringing MLS to St. Louis, and mayor Francis Slay said the city remains “committed to working with SC STL to develop a sound financial proposal to put before the voters” and discussions were ongoing.

"SC STL's goal is to bring an exceptional amenity to downtown that will serve St. Louis by generating tourism, creating jobs and enhancing the quality of life for residents of our region,” an SC STL spokesperson said in a written statement this week. "To that end, SC STL is committing $240 million in start-up funding, as well as taking full responsibility for facility maintenance and potential cost overruns.

"We’ll continue to work with Mayor [Francis] Slay and [Missouri] Governor [Eric] Greitens on ways to bring a great project to St. Louis.”

Plans call for the 25th and 26th MLS teams to be awarded in 2017.

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