Nashville is in. Now three other MLS expansion hopefuls — and a fourth that has been in limbo for years — await their fate with the growing soccer league.
The league said Tuesday that Commissioner Don Garber will join political and business figures Wednesday at the Country Music Hall of Fame for a “major soccer announcement.” Multiple sources confirmed MLS will announce it’s expanding to Nashville, with the team probably beginning play in 2020. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry will attend the event.
The city and team plan to build a 27,500-seat, $275 million stadium at the fairgrounds a few miles south of downtown. The construction timeline would require the club to initially play in a temporary location, such as Vanderbilt University.
The league’s board of governors approved the Tennessee bid at meetings in New York last week. It is planning to soon invite a second city, with Cincinnati, Sacramento and Detroit in the running. Also, a long-delayed Miami bid, led by former superstar David Beckham, is moving closer to fruition and could receive official approval this winter.
A second team in Southern California, Los Angeles FC, will begin play in 2018 at a new stadium next to the L.A. Coliseum, boosting the number of teams to 23. Seeking an even number, MLS is likely to have one newcomer start in 2019 and two in 2020.
With FC Cincinnati setting second-division attendance records, it is a strong candidate to receive the next slot and enter in 2019, followed by Nashville and Miami the following year.
If that is the case, Detroit, Sacramento and several bidding cities that were not among the finalists will vie for two additional spots in the coming years. The other cities are Charlotte, Raleigh, Tampa, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Phoenix, St. Louis and San Diego.
Nashville was back in the pack a year ago but gained momentum with a bid backed by billionaire John Ingram and the Wilf brothers, who own the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Nashville has drawn large crowds for international matches but has almost no soccer history. MLS, however, was swayed by the ownership, stadium plan, the city’s cultural dynamic and demographics and a pro sports market that has embraced the NHL’s Predators.
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