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MLS announces plan to expand to 30 teams

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced the league has plans to eventually feature 30 teams. (Jordan Culver-Pro Soccer USA)

Major League Soccer plans to expand to 30 teams “in the coming years,” the league announced in a statement released Thursday evening following its Board of Governors meeting in Los Angeles. 

Expansion fees for the league’s 28th and 29th teams are set at $200 million. A fee for the 30th club hasn’t been established yet. 

“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 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.”

Bid groups in Sacramento and St. Louis — the two cities considered front-runners to land the league’s next teams — will 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.” 

Multiple reports suggested a decision on the league’s next two teams will be made by the 2019 MLS All-Star Game, which will be played on July 31 in Orlando City Stadium. 

“Today is a monumental step in the process and we are closer than ever to reaching our goal of bringing Major League Soccer to Sacramento,” Sacramento Republic FC said in a statement released following the news. “There isn’t a better fit for MLS than our city and today’s announcement is a testament to the strength of Sacramento’s bid, and most importantly, to the faith and devotion of Republic FC fans. We will continue our ongoing communication with the Commissioner and with MLS and look forward to finalizing all next steps to deliver MLS to Sacramento.”

There are ongoing MLS expansion efforts in Phoenix and Detroit. A few teams currently playing in the second-division USL Championship have expressed a desire to move up to MLS. 

The announcement confirmed a long-held belief that the league wouldn’t stop expansion at 28 teams. Before the MLS Cup in December, Garber said there was no doubt in his mind the league could support more than 28 teams. Even with Thursday’s announcement, some close watchers of the league are predicting expansion beyond 30 teams. 

MLS currently has 24 teams with the recent addition of FC Cincinnati. Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF are set to begin play in 2020, and Austin FC will start in 2021 to bring the total number of teams playing in the league to 27. 

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