SEATTLE — Speaking at the annual State of the League address in Seattle on Friday, Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber provided his latest expansion update, stating that he expects to announce the league's 30th club in the coming months.
Currently at 24 clubs competing during the 2019 season, with franchises 25 through 29 accounted for after Sacramento were officially given an expansion team last month, the race is on for that coveted 30th spot.
Charlotte are making a strong bid, while Las Vegas and Phoenix have been reportedly in the mix too. At his annual State of the League, ahead of Sunday's MLS Cup, Garber admitted he's got no news to report but gave an update on that race for No. 30.
“There are three markets we’re looking at, that our expansion committee is engaged with: Charlotte, Las Vegas and Phoenix," Garber said. "It’s fair to say Charlotte has done a lot of work to move their bid to the front of the line. It starts with David Tepper, passionate about our sport and very passionate about Charlotte.
"There are a lot of things happening in Charlotte that are similar to things that are happening in Atlanta," Garber continued. "I think the Carolinas are great states for soccer, you know that from a women’s soccer perspective and a youth soccer perspective. Should we be able to move forward and end up with a team in Charlotte, I’m confident they would be successful.”
Expansion is just the latest mark of growth in MLS, something Garber touched on in his address as well as in a Q&A.
"[MLS] has transformed from a league on the rise to a league that has arrived as one of the great major leagues in our country, existing as one of the top leagues in the world," Garber said.
As the league continues to build, 2019 has been another banner season. Commitment from ownership is high as ever. the on-field product continues to grow while the off-field investment, in stadiums and training facilities, is at an all-time high.
“Our league is capitalizing on a momentum that exists behind the sport of soccer in North America," Garber said. "When you have owners that are focused with enormous commitment and vision to try and have their teams embed within the community, their product on the field, build great facilities and training grounds."
And the growth won't stop anytime soon.
“We’re still young, our best days are still ahead," Garber said. "The sport is growing in the US and Canada in ways that we’re going to have to adapt to as we have even greater aspirations. I never thought we’d have teams with the values they have, the expansion fees, our ownership groups, media support, increased audience.”