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(Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

MLS announces bigger league expansion, St. Louis will likely get a team

St. Louis and Sacramento were the front runners for the 28th MLS spot – but now the league is growing to 30 teams

April 18, 2019 - 6:38 pm

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - MLS4TheLou has likely won St. Louis an expansion soccer franchise after the league has announced it will grow its expansion plan from 28 teams to 30. St. Louis has been a front runner with Sacramento for the 28th and final spot, but now with two more spots up for grabs it looks all but guaranteed for both cities to be awarded a team.

MLS owners were in Los Angeles this week and while expansion talks were on the agenda, a formal announcement was not expected from the league.

"A total shock," said Bill McDermott, host of KMOX's The First Eleven podcast. "No one, no one anticipated this."

The MLS4TheLou ownership group will still need to show the league it has a solid plan before an expansion franchise can be officially awarded. 

In a statement, MLS says:

"Both Sacramento and St. Louis groups will be asked to make formal presentations to the MLS Expansion Committee to address each bid’s final stadium plan, corporate commitments, the composition of the respective ownership groups, detailed economics on funding, strategic plans for fan development, commitments on player development and details on community programs."

The St. Louis ownership group has yet to release details of a downtown stadium or announce a naming sponsor for the team jerseys and stadium.

Current MLS expansion is set through 2021, with Inter Miami CF (2020), Nashville SC (2020) and Austin FC (2021) beginning play in the next two years, bringing the total of MLS clubs to 27.

St. Louis and Sacramento will likely earn the 28th and 29th spots and could begin play as soon as 2022. While that's not a guarantee, McDermott is reading between the lines.

"Every communication between [ownership group members> Carolyn Kindle Betz, Jim Kavanaugh and [MLS Commissioner> Don Garber has all been positive, in particular, from Commissioner Garber."

Here is the full release from MLS:

Major League Soccer unveiled plans to expand to 30 teams in the coming years, up from the previous target of 28 clubs that the league had established in December 2015.

The decision was made by owners at Board of Governors meetings held in Los Angeles. No official decision was made on future expansion markets, but the Commissioner’s office was authorized to advance discussions with Sacramento and St. Louis ownership groups regarding their bids.

Both Sacramento and St. Louis groups will be asked to make formal presentations to the MLS Expansion Committee to address each bid’s final stadium plan, corporate commitments, the composition of the respective ownership groups, detailed economics on funding, strategic plans for fan development, commitments on player development and details on community programs.

In addition to Sacramento and St. Louis, the league remains in discussion with several other ownership groups in other cities.

“Professional soccer at all levels is thriving in the United States and Canada and we believe there are many markets that could support a successful MLS club,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a league statement. “Expansion during the last 15 years has been enormously successful and a key driver behind the league’s continued rise, and we are pleased that some of the top business and community leaders representing great markets in North America are aggressively pursuing MLS expansion clubs.”

With agreements currently in place with 27 total clubs, the league anticipates selecting the 28th and 29th expansion teams in the coming months with a timetable yet to be determined for the 30th team.

The expansion fee for the 28th and 29th clubs was set at $200 million with an expansion fee for the 30th club yet to be determined.

There are currently 24 clubs competing in the 2019 regular season in progress with expansion teams Inter Miami CF (2020), Nashville SC (2020) and Austin FC (2021) beginning play in the next two years, bringing the total of MLS clubs to 27.

MLS is currently the largest first division professional soccer league in the world.

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