MLS still set to announce two new teams in December, unless it needs the stadium leverage

MLS has been dead set on announcing two expansion franchises this December, with two more getting the nod next year. But on Thursday, commissioner Don Garber hedged on that timetable just a bit:

A league spokesperson later texted, according to ESPN, that “MLS remains on track to name two teams in December, with an announcement ‘likely around Dec. 19-20.'” But that’s still hedging, in a way that could probably best be taken as We’re planning an announcement the week before Christmas, but we reserve the right to change our minds.

What could be going on here? Soccer Stadium Digest thinks that MLS wants to be sure that David Beckham’s Miami franchise will actually get stadium approval in time to begin play next year — the stadium won’t be done by then, mind you, but MLS will award a team so long as it has a stadium deal in place — or else award a franchise to a fallback city in order to keep an even number of teams. That’s certainly possible, though MLS has operated with an odd number of franchises before, so it could always just push back Miami’s entry another year or three if necessary.

Equally possible is that MLS may want to wait out the legislative process in some potential expansion cities to see what they can shake loose in terms of public stadium funding. Of the four frontrunners declared by Soccer Stadium Digest, Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s $300 million plus free land and I’ll build Detroit a new jail to replace its already half built one plan still needs both city and county approval, Nashville S.C.‘s $75 million subsidy demand requires approval of the regional Nashville Metro council, F.C. Cincinnati‘s gambit for that city to pay for half of a new $200 million stadium hasn’t seen much action in recent months (other than a new Cincinnati citizens’ group petitioning Garber to let the team move up to MLS while still playing at Nippert Stadium, where it’s setting attendance records), and Sacramento F.C. has already started clearing land for a new stadium, though with actual construction not scheduled to begin until 2018 the team owners can always slam on the brakes if they don’t get awarded an MLS franchise by then.

That’s a whole lot of uncertainty, and could easily be a reason why the league doesn’t want to set an expansion announcement date in stone. When running a bidding war, it’s a fine line between wanting to scare the participants with a countdown clock, and wanting to make sure they always have enough rope to up their bids.


8 comments on “MLS still set to announce two new teams in December, unless it needs the stadium leverage

  1. I think it’s probably more like “we’re going to see how the summary judgment hearing scheduled for December 18 regarding a challenge to the purchase of necessary land for Beckham’s stadium goes”. I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence that they picked literally the day after a relevant hearing.

    If the stadium gets stuck in red tape, I suspect they may announce three (24-26) and bypass Miami for now.

  2. “When running a bidding war, it’s a fine line between wanting to scare the participants with a countdown clock, and wanting to make sure they always have enough rope to up their bids.”

    Good point, although it never hurts to decide whether to award a franchise to a city on the basis that it will actually support a team in your league. Handing out franchises like Snickers Minis at Halloween to collect the expansion fees didn’t exactly save the NASL, which would’ve approved a franchise in Fairbanks, Alaska if some oil baron on the North Slope had ponied up the entry fee.

          • And don’t forget the long-lamented Hartford Bicentennials or Tulsa Roughnecks!

            One of the things I loved about the NASL was a chance to see some of the true legends of the game in person (watched Pele three times, including his last competitive game at the 1977 Soccer Bowl), but I will never wrap my brain around the fact that when I saw Eusebio play, it was for the Las Vegas Silvers…that’s like catching Enrico Caruso at the Sands.

  3. We were assured that Sacramento will get a team, and the real bidding was to see which of the remaining cities gets the other. I hope those assurances were incorrect.

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