12 cities apply for MLS expansion

Dropped by the NFL, St. Louis and San Diego are among bidders from 12 areas applying for four Major League Soccer expansion teams.

Cost is $150M per franchise; 2 will begin play in 2020

Fans in San Diego show their support for a MLS expansion bid. (Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

Dropped by the NFL, St. Louis and San Diego are among bidders from 12 areas applying for four Major League Soccer expansion teams.

Two of the teams, which have $150 million expansion fees, will start play in 2020. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said Tuesday that having stadium financing in place is a condition for selection.

"In the past, we weren't in a position to demand that every new market came in with all their I's dotted and T's crossed," Garber said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Now we're at a point where there are so many cities looking for so few market opportunities that we can do the right thing by everyone and ensure that every aspect of their expansion plan is fully in place."

The expansion committee, led by New England's Jonathan Kraft, will start to review applications in February. MLS will pare the field in the next few months and plans to announce its two selections by the end of the year. The percentage of government stadium financing will depend on the city.

"Every market is different," Garber said.

Others to submit bids were groups from Charlotte, North Carolina; Cincinnati; Detroit; Indianapolis; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Sacramento, California; San Antonio; and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida.

10 teams in 1996

Launched with 10 teams in 1996, MLS has 22 this year following the addition of Atlanta and Minnesota. A second Los Angeles team is slated to open next year and David Beckham has rights to start a Miami team — but has been unable to finalize a stadium plan. The league said in December it plans to expand to 28 teams but has not put a timetable on the final two.

The NFL's Rams left California and moved to St. Louis for the 1995 season, then shifted after the 2015 season to Los Angeles, where a new stadium in Inglewood is under construction. The Chargers had been in San Diego since 1961 but said on Jan. 12 they are moving to Los Angeles for next season and also will settle at the new stadium in Inglewood.

"Clearly, both in San Diego and St. Louis there's a void left by the NFL," Garber said, explaining the loss of the NFL might increase MLS interest in the corporate community. "Those folks that were sitting on the fence as it relates to supporting soccer now might be more inclined to do."


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