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Detroit among 3 cities in limbo awaiting MLS 2020 expansion decision

Owners and officials representing the expansion markets, including Detroit, made presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber, above, and the league's expansion committee on Dec. 6 in New York. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP, File)


We’re into the new year, but there’s no timetable for when Major League Soccer plans to announce the second expansion team for the 2020 season.

After Nashville was awarded one of the two expansion teams for 2020 in late December, MLS announced it would take “ additional time to review ” the bids submitted by Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento “before announcing a final decision in the new year.”

Dan Courtemanche, MLS Executive Vice President of Communications, responded to an email from the Free Press asking for an expansion update: “We currently do not have an update regarding plans for the next expansion team announcement. We will keep you posted. Thanks.”

It appears the league is still considering all three teams, but hasn’t addressed what is holding up the process. Detroit appears to be a longshot to beat out Cincinnati or Sacramento for 2020 expansion, although the other cities may have obstacles Detroit does not.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Dec. 21 that Sacramento lost a billionaire in its expansion push when Republic FC announced the exit of billionaire Meg Whitman from its ownership group.

The Enquirer reported Jan. 3 business leaders want to ask state officials for $4 million to cover infrastructure needed to build a stadium for FC Cincinnati — $6 million less than the initial request.

With three billionaires – Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert and the Ford family – backing the Detroit effort, there shouldn’t be any doubt by the league that the $150 million expansion fee can be paid.

And while MLS commissioner Don Garber prefers soccer-specific stadiums, there should be little concern that a Detroit expansion team would be able to play games at Ford Field, the current home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

The decision to move away from Garber’s preferred plan to build a soccer-specific stadium at the site of failed Wayne Co. Jail on Gratiot may doom the Detroit expansion effort.

For now, all three cities appear to be in limbo, waiting for Garber and the MLS Expansion Committee to make a decision.

2018 the Detroit Free Press

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