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MLS confirms advanced expansion talks with Minnesota United; evaluating growth beyond 24 teams

Don Garber (Getty Images)


The introduction of an MLS franchise in Minnesota appears to be moving closer and closer to reality.

MLS commissioner Don Garber released a statement Monday detailing the league’s continued plans for expansion. The league, which has previously targeted a 24-team setup, will be evaluating options in the coming year with regard to moving past that mark.

Additionally, Garber says that the league is in “advanced discussions” with Minnesota United owner Bill McGuire, as the league targets an expansion announcement in the next 30-45 days.

“During the past several months, we have conducted expansion meetings with representatives from Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Sacramento and visited all three markets,” Garber said. “We have also met with representatives from San Antonio and St. Louis. We recently announced that Las Vegas is no longer being considered for this round of expansion.

“We are in advanced discussions with Bill McGuire and his partners in Minnesota to bring a Major League Soccer expansion club to the Twin Cities and are particularly excited about their plans for a new soccer-specific stadium that will serve as the club’s home,” Garber added. “We remain on track to announce the next MLS expansion market in the next 30-45 days, though no specific date for an announcement has been set.”

With the decision to pursue Minnesota United’s plans for the construction of a new soccer-specific stadium, MLS would be forgoing a second option put forth by the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings plan would see the new soccer franchise share a stadium to be opened in 2016, and, while disappointed, owner Mark Wilf said he is pleased with the MLS’ commitment to Minnesota.

“We have been informed by Major League Soccer of its plans to pursue an outdoor stadium in Minneapolis. We have been very excited about the possibility of bringing an MLS team to Minnesota fans and deeply committed to providing a phenomenal stadium experience,” Wilf said in a statement. “We offered MLS an ideal situation – a stadium that is certain and will be completed in 2016, a plan that was funded by the public and private sectors to host MLS, and an option that will not require additional government approvals. The new multi-purpose stadium also would have accommodated the length of the MLS season and the growth of the sport in this market.

“At the same time, we commend MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott for their continued success in building the MLS brand, and, most importantly, we are pleased to see they believe in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.”

What do you make of MLS’ recent statement? How would an MLS franchise fare in Minnesota?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. The promo-relegation idea is one way to keep interest high near the end of the season for struggling teams and brings added excitement to teams near the top of the lower league.

    Two divisions does the same sort of thing for the mid level teams over-all; that is something the large number of play-off spots attempts to accomplish.

    (The NFL has nearly perfected the play-off scenario with parity to keep most teams in the hunt for a playoff spot until the last week or 2 of the regular season in what is a pretty successful effort to keep interest high at the end of the regular season even for those teams who realistically have little chance of winning the championship.)

  2. I’d prefer if they dropped D1 down to 18 teams, with a single table (34 games). You then build MLS2, also with 18 teams, with Pro/Rel between them. Both MLS1 and MLS2 would fall under single entity (for as long as its legally viable) being, effectively 2 divisions or conferences of the same league.

    D2 Playoffs would lead to promotion of 2-3 teams to D1.

  3. No conferences, please, move to a single table.

    And don’t pair up NFL/MLS.

    MLS teams need their own stadiums and identity, as well as REAL GRASS.

    That field on the Sounders stadiums is just unwatchable…

  4. Congrats to Minnesota. Good times ahead.
    It’s obvoius this Mark Wilf has never once watched a soccer game on field turf. “Perfect situation for soccer”. Dumb fool.
    How bout a 28 team 2 conference setup with the 14 highest payrolls and the 14 lowest. It will reshuffle each year. That way we see new teams every season and the little guys stand a chance.

    • Nope but that’s what the world market is for to make up for that with better players. I mean look at Man City few English players on that team or Chelsea but they do just fine. If MLS is going to expand more they have to decide if creating American players should be one of their main objectives. If so then keep the team number low if not then add more and open up the rosters for better players American or not.

      • Eh, this isn’t really that accurate. What MLS can do is simultaneously invest in youth development here at home while hitting the international market for young, cheaper players to fill out expansion rosters now. It’s not a zero sum proposition.

  5. Seems like the MLS strategy is look at this shinny new object. So each season there will be an expansion team to play an opening game in front of 50,000 fans. Meanwhile ignore that the old new teams no longer get any attention nor do they have a fan base or market to compete with the emerging power teams.

    • I completely agree. It almost seems like there’s not endgame here or bigger picture. The league now seems to be expanding for expansion sake. Interesting that for a league that fears having no salary cap will ruin MLS financially, it doesn’t seem to want to realize that rampant uncontrolled expansion can be just as harmful to the bottom-line.

      • Nope. MLS is looking for solid ownership groups willing to invest in the league & good fan demographics for their TV partners. Sac & MSP check all the boxes and are too good to pass on. Nothing being forced here at all.

  6. Easy to see this coming…league was never going to award a franchise to a small-ish TV market like Sacramento at this point.

      • Multiple billionaire owners willing to cut checks in one of the largest untapped media markets in the country (MSP) is better than billionaire owners willing to cut checks in a small media market (SAC).

      • MSP is 15 largest media market. Sac is 20th. Sac has better fan support at the moment. Both are no brainer deals for MLS, IMO.

    • West Coast, too. And yet another I-5 city to boot.

      Truthfully MLS could probably build another 20-30 franchises along the I-5 and the stadiums would be full. Start with Eugene and Redding and keep building right on down. Fan interest in that region’s at an all-time high and the demographics are…spectacular.

      The problem is that MLS is trying really hard to balance East/West, especially the Southeast, and putting another 20-30 franchises down the I-5 is not going to bring in the national TV money. There will still be a bumper crop of franchises down the I-5, mind – you can’t stop gravity, or refuse to service fans where they are (or someone else will, in the long run) – but MLS is going to slow-play it as much as they can.

  7. It’s about time garber admits expansion will not stop at 24, it ain’t rocket science MLS.
    Now for the million time, LA2 needs more time, just like Miami.
    If Sacramento is ready, then let them have LA2 spot for 2017.
    2017 Sacramento and Atlanta
    2018 LA2 and Miami
    2019 Minnesota and San Antonio
    After 2020, Indy, st.louis, Tampa bay, Charlotte might all be ready and San Antonio is always going to have stiff competition given that texas has 2 teams already.
    At the end of the day, MLS should have 32 teams or 30 and hopefully make an MLS 2. Too bad cosmos don’t want a piece of MLS.

  8. I am in favor of continued MLS expansion, in good markets, since at some point after you get to 30 teams, MLS will need to start considering splitting into 2 tiers with Promotion/relegation between them.

    • They’ll go East/West before they do promotion/relegation.

      Pro/rel is fun to think about, but America and Canada between them are as big as Western Europe. There’s probably 500-600 professional soccer teams in that region.

      Even assuming soccer is never more than half as popular here as it is in Europe – which is by no means a foregone concluson, which the demographics of the 12-24 age group strongly indicate – that means we can probably support at least 250+ pro soccer teams in the USA and Canada. We currently have maybe 60 between MLS, NASL, and USSL Pro. That’s it.

      We are still very much in the Young Days of American Soccer. Lotta miles to go before we get to pro/rel.

      • +1 Well said.

        As a tangent, sometimes I wonder if we are all to caught up too much in thinking that there are only two ways to do things– the first being a single-table with pro/rel (which would make the league more consistent with the existing Euro model in the eyes of some), and the second being an NFL/NBA style of “conferencing”, which is intuitively accessible to US sports fans and avoids the financial dysfunctions of pro/rel.

        Maybe there is a more creative way of doing things. I can’t say exactly what that is, but I feel like there must be lots of potential models out there that we haven’t even begun to explore. I think MLS will eventually find itself in a position where it almost “has” to find a creative solution in order to accommodate expansion and market demand. And I’m not sure that any existing idea is really “perfect” to accommodate the direction the sport appears to be going here.

        Who knows what this looks like? Perhaps there is some value in a modified version of the the apertura/clausura concept… or perhaps MLS could experiment with “conferencing” in a non-permanent way (meaning teams are allocated to different conferences year-upon-year, either randomly or otherwise). I don’t purport to have the perfect idea– but I do believe the universe of solutions is a lot bigger than we sometimes imagine.

        But like you said… Young Days indeed. For now, the ship is on course.

  9. Here’s what I’m excited for, seeing how much Sacramento and Minnesota change their roster, specially their payroll. Obviously we don’t get to see the payroll of the other leagues like we do MLS, but I really doubt that any team in either league (other than MAYBE the Cosmos) are coming anywhere near the $3.1 million MLS is at. That makes a huge difference in the “no salary cap” argument.

  10. Expand to 28 teams with 14 comprising a Western Conference and 14 being in and Eastern Conference. Teams in each Conference play each other exclusively but program six or so inter conference matches that might be appealing (i.e. LAG v RBNY). 5 teams from each conference make the playoffs with THE MLS Cup being contested by the Eastern and Western Winners.

    • IMO this would be perfect. I would go with home and away against your conference and only one game (alternating home/away each year) against the other conf. (40 games)

      Builds the rivalries and makes those games v the other conf must see.

  11. So,

    The current list of potential future expansion cities are:

    San Antonio
    St. Louis

    Cities already approved:
    LA FC

    • Las Vegas is still a potential expansion city, just not for this round.

      IMO, they should just give LA2 to Sacremento, and MN gets the 24th slot.

      • Meh. What’s done is done. At the end of the day, LAFC is not actually an expansion franchise… it’s a transfer of an existing license, and the only reason the Chivas USA buyout even happened is because MLS feels they could do better with a more financially engaged ownership group in place.

      • Not to mention an ownership group that understands American equal-opportunity laws, builds a team entirely for one particular ethnic group, and then turns around and alienates 75% of THEM by proudly slapping “CHIVAS” – including the Guadalajara emblem – all over the most-loathed, regionalistic, and nationalistic team in Mexico.

        Not entirely unlike trying to start an “America’s Team: Dallas Cowboys Chapter in Guadalajara” expansion football team. Leaves one kinda scratching their head.

        No problem at all with a primarily Spanish-speaking, pan-Central/South American soccer team that focuses on a more Latin style, and I think it would have flown quite well in the LA area, if it was inclusive enough. But “Chivas USA” was always a Bad Idea.

      • No doubt. We could go on for hours about why Chivas was a farcically terrible idea and execution.

        The new ownership group still has a lot to prove, but they seem to “get it” a lot better. And if they get the Sports Arena site done, it could be a big time home run.

  12. The Vikings don’t really care anymore. They were just using the MLS expansion thing as a ruse to screw tax payers into helping pay for their stadium, which will now only be used 10 days a year.

    • yup.

      i 100% agree that MLS should be looking at grass fields in stadiums designed for MLS crowds, but its good to see an interested NFL stadium nearby. I imagine that they might be asking to host early season and CCL games there like Montreal does.

    • A ruse that all the Dark Clouds and MLS to MN folks bought into hook, line and sinker. It was fun being shout down by all the folks with soccer-goggles on who were just certain that the Wilfs new stadium showed how much they love soccer. Now its McGuire, who is a “local boy”, but has a history of screwing over the public. (Google his history, its gross). Good times, good times.

      • yeah. The guy is a major scumbag…. but he’s our scumbag. The more the merrier. After all, this is MLS.

      • That’s a bit of a misleading way to characterize public opinion in Mpls. At the time the Vikings stadium debate was happening, the then-Minnesota Stars looked for all the world like they would be going out of existence in the near future. Given that, the Vikings project seemed like our best bet to secure pro soccer, even though I promise you it made a lot of people uneasy. Ever since the very first signs that the MN United group could be a viable long-term thing, public opinion among the soccer folks has been firmly on their side because it’s obvious how much more in touch they are with the soccer community.

  13. Seems pretty inevitable at this point that expansion is going to be increased. They have already gone too far down the road w the very appealing options in Sacramento and San Antonio to abandon them entirely, and the contractual obligation with Beckham will ensure that sooner-or-later, this gets done as well.


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