The Final Four: Who Will Make The MLS Expansion?

The Final Four: Who Will Make The MLS Expansion?

Manuel Veth –

The 12-city list of potential MLS expansion sides have now been cut to a final four, consisting of Cincinnati, Detroit, Sacramento and Nashville. Only two can be chosen and will become the league’s 24th and 25th clubs, with each city already having gone through a rigorous selection process in which every conceivable factor was examined in the gruelling case to become one of MLS’s coveted new members.

Owners and officials representing each finalist club will make their final presentations in front of Commissioner Don Garber and the MLS Expansion Committee on December 6th in New York City, with the intention of announcing who he plans to add by the end of the year.

Don Garber is excited about the upcoming MLS Expansion.  (Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)

Don Garber is excited about the upcoming MLS Expansion. (Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)

MLS expansion and establishing a bigger national reach is seen as essential to securing television rights fees needed to reach MLS’s stated goal of becoming one of the top leagues in the world by 2022. Most recently added teams to the league have been Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC in 2017.

MLS Expansion – Several Criteria are Important

MLS considers several criteria when determining where to award expansion franchises. Owners that are committed to MLS and have the financial wherewithal to invest in a team, a stadium or approved plans for a stadium – difficulties with this can be seen with the prosed Miami franchise. The size of the market of the metropolitan area and demand for soccer is also a huge factor.

Momentum surrounding a franchise in Cincinnati has gathered new steam in 2017, with the USL club making a run to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semi-final, drawing a sellout crowd of 35,000 to the Nippert Stadium. Not only did this graphically display the hunger for soccer in the city, but that the side could compete with MLS opposition, the New York Red Bulls. The Red Bulls reached the semi-finals of the MLS Cup this year, only beaten by Toronto FC, favourites to go on to win the as per the latest MLS odds.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, the financial backing of NBA owners Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers), Tom Gores (Detroit Pistons) and the prestigious Ford family will attract interest. The club already has the potential to finance a competitive MLS club. However, the expansion committee has highlighted the need for a soccer-specific stadium to host the team, something the pitching members are yet to finalise and is looking at a stadium share with the Detroit Lions.

Successful since entering the USL in 2014, Sacramento Republic went on to win the USL title and soon established itself as a popular brand and sporting destination in the geographical area. Selling out their stadium in each of their games in 2017, the demand is there and even have their own development academy program. All the right ingredients are there for a franchise, but majority owner Kevin Nagle needs outside investment.

Nashville, famous around the world for its music scene, also boasts all the right factors needed for an MLS team. A $275 million stadium deal depends upon Nashville SC being awarded a franchise, but the area could certainly sustain a club and investment is not an issue. These four cities all boast attractive factors, but only the commissioner and the committee can decide which of the final four emerge in celebrations.

Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.