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Garber: MLS to expand to 24 teams by 2020



During a week that saw the strength of the Kansas City market for Major League Soccer, commissioner Don Garber raised the stakes for the booming league by announcing on Wednesday night that MLS will expand to 24 teams by the year 2020.

Garber laid out the ambitious plan during an interview with ESPN at halftime of the MLS All-Star Game, and revealed the league would add four more teams in the next seven years to go along with the current 19 teams, and the soon-to-arrive New York City FC.

“The league’s going to expand by four teams by the end of the decade. By 2020. A lot of cities are interested. Expansion has been a big driver of the success of our league. The diversity of our ownership group, lots of new energy, so we’ve got some work to do.”

Garber also addressed the idea of moving weak and underperforming teams out of current markets and into new markets. He made it clear MLS isn’t planning on uprooting any existing teams.

“We don’t look at some of the challenges we have as things we can solve with moving,” Garber said. “We need to figure out what we can do to solve those teams, and then add new markets so we can have new fans and new excitement.”

“There’s no plan whatsoever to move any clubs,” Garber added. “What we’ve seen is expansion has driven a lot of success. We have new owners that have great vision, that are going to diversify the way we think.

“More jobs by the way,” Garber added. “Four more teams. Hundreds and hundreds of new jobs, as opposed to just replacing those jobs. Getting player development going on at those academies. Getting more fans. Growing our footprint. Raising our popularity and interest, which we need as we go and try to achieve that goal of being one of the top leagues.”

Garber pointed to the impressive success currently being enjoyed by Sporting Kansas City, a team that once was considered one of the league’s struggling clubs, but a team that is now thriving since an ownership change and rebranding.

“Many people wanted to move this team,” Garber said. “This is a bright shining star of the Major League Soccer.”

What do you think of this development? Excited to hear MLS is aggressively trying to expand, or worried the league is moving too fast?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I think expansion is great and all, but without a serious bump in the salary cap there is no way MLS will be considered a top 5 league.

  2. I remember feeling devastated when the league was reduced to 8 teams. I thought it was the NASL all over again.

    Soccer has finally arrived. The MLS is here to stay.

  3. I’m not very connected with the expansion process but I live in Kentucky and have to ask: Will Louisville ever be an option?

    • Don’t listen to slowleftfarm. He’s slow…doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I don’t affirm anything unless I’m absolutely sure. It’s not out of the question. I could see something similar to what happened with SKC taking hold of Louisville. That’s for MLS to decide.

      However, in the meantime, you could take the 2 hour drive north to Indy to catch the inaugural season of Indy Eleven playing in the NASL. If you want professional soccer in a live, stadium atmosphere, that’s your best bet. Better than watching on tv that’s for sure (for all you Eurosnobs).

  4. We don’t need more than 20 teams in the league. 21+ will greatly reduce the talent pool. I don’t want to spend $200 for a family of four to watch a game full of players with little skill. It’s already questionably poor quality. Can’t MLS/US Soccer just partner with the lower divisions to strengthen those teams?

    24 teams is just plain silly.

  5. 20) NYFC, duh.

    21) Miami
    – Beckham, $$, hot market, international appeal, Latin fans

    22) Nashville
    – Nice middle ground of South/Midwest, one of the few boom towns in America, great soccer support (already supports hockey), lots of transplants

    23) Raleigh/Durham, NC
    – Tops “best of” lists for work & living, US Soccer facility, tons of local college talent, huge youth leagues, no baseball to compete, Tech sector and college town = alt. appeal (like Seattle/Portland), already supports “non-traditional sport” hockey, lots of transplants

    24) Atlanta or Orlando
    – Atlanta is the immediate “Southern” choice because of market size but it is such a crappy sports town. There is so much sprawl that people tend to not trudge back into the city for events. I see Orlando as being no more exciting an option though, unless Disney wants to get involved. To me either of these are suitable for Southern/East coast expansion but nothing special. Would be just as happy with one of the “Next Up” teams.

    Next up:
    San Antonio (great organization, MLS just needs more markets first)
    Minnesota (very underrated, but not as attractive as southeast expansion)

      • There is currently nothing south of DC or east of Houston, they have to make up ground in one of the biggest sports-consuming regions in the country. Take a look at this map and look at how sparse it is.

      • yeah, but they aren’t going to award, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, and NC all four. there is no way. even if they should, i don’t see it. and since Orlando is a lock, and Miami is the front runner of the other SE options, i think it’s hard to imagine Atlanta, NC, or Nashville also getting one.

        i also think MLS would love to get another team in Canada. it’s going to be fun to watch this play out.

    • yeah, too much SE. and Orlando is a lock.

      i really like the NC idea, i think there could be a solid club there. not sure there has been any interested ownership groups though.

    • By my estimation atlanta and Miami are the largest metro areas without a team. So they seem like obvious choices. I have zero doubt that the fans in NC and St Louis would rival Portland and KC. Orlando seems like a lock due to having all the ingredients. Indianapolis seems pretty serious too. It’s going to be interesting.
      If Nashville gets a team I will seriously consider moving back.

  6. 99.999% Locked in

    other 2?
    San Antonio – best support in NASL
    Atlanta – biggest untapped region outside of Florida, 8th biggest met US TV market
    Detroit – Serious owner plans for new stadium, and good Detroit City FC support, 11th biggest met US TV market

    St. Louis
    and any city/owner willing to build a SSS

  7. Why not Austin? Largest city in america without a pro sports franchise. The city gets huge tv ratings for EPL and World Cup games, and it also has a similar fan base and culture to Seattle and Portland. This seems so obvious to me.

      • Austin > San Antonio. Higher standard of living and financial growth in Austin than San Antonio, plus San Antonio is a heavy Spurs town, always will be. Other than UT Football having 5-6 home games a year, Austin has no other sports entertainment competition and has an awesome soccer/pub culture.

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