Two-and-a-half years after contracting two teams, Major League Soccer is expanding.

The 10-team circuit announced yesterday that a Salt Lake City club, operated by former NBA executive Dave Checketts, will begin play next season at the University of Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium. Checketts's group, which will pay $10 million to enter the league, has pledged to build a medium-sized soccer facility in the near future.

Another expansion team, owned by Mexican businessman Jorge Vergara, will play in Los Angeles next year, sharing Home Depot Center with the Galaxy, an MLS charter member. The league likely will unveil that team next week.

It's the first time MLS has expanded since adding Chicago and Miami in 1998. Four years later, Miami and Tampa Bay were shut down for financial reasons.

The league plans to add two more teams for the 2006 season, with Seattle, Houston, San Antonio and Portland, Ore., among the leading candidates.

"I truly believe that Major League Soccer is the sports league of the future," said Checketts, whose team's nickname, logo and colors will be unveiled next month. A special expansion draft will take place in November, followed by the annual draft in January.

-- Steven Goff