WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2013 — At the halftime mark of the unforgettable MLS All-Star game on Wednesday night at Sporting Park in Kansas City, league commissioner Don Garber announced that MLS plans to add four new expansion teams by the 2020 season, taking the league to 24 clubs.
The only other key soccer division in the world with 24 teams is the second-tier Championship in England.
“The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league,” Garber said. “We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game. As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”
Garber did not give any details of where the teams will be located, but it is clear that Miami is in the running and possibly Orlando. Former MLS player David Beckham has the rights to buy an MLS franchise for $25 million and his eye is on Miami where he is backed by Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure. Other sites could be Atlanta, St Louis, San Diego, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Oklahoma City, and even Detroit.
Florida hosted two MLS teams previously, the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996 and the Miami Fusion. Both teams folded in 2001.
With the recent addition of New York City FC as the league’s 20th team, MLS has added 10 clubs since the beginning of the 2005 season, leading to a remarkable and rapid transformation of professional soccer in North America.
In order for a city to win a franchise MLS is looking for a committed and engaged ownership, a comprehensive stadium plan, demonstrated fan support for professional soccer in the market, television partners, good geographic location, and a strategic business plan.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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