MLS expansion: Ranking the top contenders for the next two slots

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Major League Soccer's next two expansion teams will be in either Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville or Sacramento. Then what?

The final four for the next round

Cincinnati

There’s a lot to love about efforts at a second MLS city in Ohio, including community support that’s as passionate as it is abundant. Crowds of 30,000-plus at Nippert Stadium for FC Cincinnati matches this year add tremendously to the bid’s momentum and energy. What Cincy still lacks is a fully-formed stadium plan, which remains problematic.

Still, the wildcard here, potentially, is what happens to Columbus, about 90 minutes from Cincinnati, where the possibility of moving the Crew away from Ohio’s capital city looks all too real.

Nashville

No group made up as much ground in the race over the last year, and reports out of Tennessee have officials sounding confident it will pay off. Once a long shot, presumed too far behind in the game to catch up, Nashville’s aggressive ownership group recently released details of a $250 million stadium plan, which has been embraced by city officials. MLS loves stadium plans embraced by local government.

Sacramento

At some point, you just have to stop treating someone as your reliable Saturday night date fallback if something better hasn’t come along by Thursday, right? Isn’t that where we are with Sacramento, a club that has looked ready to get off the bench and into the big game for years now?

USA TODAY Sports-Sergio Estrada

Republic faithful (USA TODAY Sports-Sergio Estrada)

The USL club that has done so much for so long to prepare for MLS entrance, and it may finally break through. Season-ticket deposits have reached 10,000 and stadium construction is underway. Ownership seems so confident that it built a dedicated website just to track progress as the club crosses the finish line.

Detroit

The Michigan city, still endeavoring to reinvent itself and recover from its financial collapse, has big money and high-level support behind an MLS bid. What it doesn’t have is a cohesive structure for ownership and operation, which has left holes in the effort. It looks like 2020 (or whenever the next round of expansion happens) is a better target.

Lots to like, but still behind the game

St. Louis

The city’s efforts are still in recovery following April’s rejection (by a relatively small number of votes) of a proposition that would have made up a (relatively small) shortfall in financing, about $60 million. Sadly for Missouri soccer fans who badly want it, and for a lot of people who recognize the city’s soccer history and the opportunity to fill an NFL-created void, it looks like St. Louis missed a sitter here.

Tampa

Voters last spring overwhelmingly (by 87 percent) chose to give Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards the ability to turn Al Lang Stadium into a big-time soccer venue. But the bid hasn’t moved much from there and probably suffers from certain geographic obstructions – namely that Orlando isn’t far away and that Miami’s situation remains unresolved.

The point is, with Orlando, Miami and even not-too-far Atlanta, Major League Soccer’s longtime lagging presence in the American Southeast has largely been covered up.

NEXT: Still got a shot, or jockeying for the next go-round?

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