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Expansion finalists make their final sales pitches to MLS

MLS has heard all it needs to hear in order to make its decision on its next two franchises.

Representatives of the four finalists for MLS expansion were in New York on Tuesday to make their final presentations to Don Garber and the MLS expansion committee. Each of the bids had several hours to impress the league with stadium plans, market sizes, and anything else they could present to strengthen their case. One bid even had a gaggle of chanting fans outside MLS headquarters cheering them on.

None of the meetings were open to the public and the bids were rather tight-lipped about how each meeting went. Here’s a roundup of the news from each bid to come out of league headquarters yesterday.


Nashville’s representatives left MLS headquarters optimistic, according to the Tennessean.

“We’re satisfied that we’ve made our best case possible,” Will Alexander of the MLS2Nashville Steering Committee said afterwards. “We’re leaving here today thinking that we’ve made a strong, compelling pitch on all the elements that MLS is looking at. Now it’s in their hands to make a decision.”

Lead investor John Ingram and his counterparts were the first presentation of the day and they spoke with Garber and the expansion committee for more than two hours. Their presentation was heavy on their solid stadium plan, which aims to be completed for the 2021 season.

Nashville has long been considered a favorite for one of these two spots since securing that stadium plan last month, although there are still lawsuits to be settled over the use of their site, which would involve significant changes to the Nashville Fairgrounds.


Sacramento was the second market to present on the day and they had the backing of a small contingent of Sacramento Republic FC supporters outside MLS headquarters. Dozens of fans stood outside the building chanting and singing, hoping it would bolster their city’s case for MLS expansion.

Present for Sacramento were the city’s Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Republic FC chairman Kevin Nagle. They also spoke for about two hours and focused primarily on their shovel ready stadium. Steinberg was highly satisfied with the meeting, telling the Sacramento Bee afterwards that the group was “very, very excited about our prospects; it couldn’t have gone better.”

“We were very well received and appreciated the committee’s recognition about how prepared we were and are as a city,” he continued. “In two hours, there was a lot of back and forth and a lot of very good questions and we feel very, very good about it. We feel great about it.”

The bid received other good news yesterday as they learned Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and her husband had rejoined the investment group after seeming to withdraw earlier in the process.


Next up came Detroit and their trio of billionaire investors. Their bid was supported in person by Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, and Detroit Lions president Rod Wood. “It will be very important for the city of Detroit to land an MLS franchise,” the mayor told the Detroit News. “We made our best pitch and we’re gonna see what happens.”

The bid had to explain their rationale for abandoning their initial plan to build a soccer specific stadium at the site of an unfinished county jail, which is very close to being turned over to Gilbert and his colleagues. Instead, the prospective team would play their home matches at 65,000 seat Ford Field, which clashes with MLS’s preference for soccer-specific facilities.

Tellem referenced the success of Atlanta United and how he doesn’t want an undersized stadium for a club he thinks will outgrow such a venue.

“The average downtown stadium in the MLS draws 30,000. The one thing we didn’t want to do was build a soccer stadium for 20,000 and all of a sudden have fan interest of 30,000 or 40,000,” he said, “so Ford Field is adaptable. And that was another key point for us. It could adapt to any size of crowd and we believe we’re gonna be like Atlanta. We believe there is such strong interest in Detroit and the region that we’re gonna be able to support crowds of 30,000 to 40,000 once we have an MLS team.”

Detroit is considered by many to be a distant fourth in this initial race, but they are relying on their significant financial advantage over the other three choices to attract MLS to their bid.


Cincinnati’s two hour presentation wrapped things up for the day. FC Cincinnati president Jeff Bearding was calm leaving proceedings, according to

“There’s no pressure, really,” he said. “We’ve worked real hard for two (seasons).”

Bearding and the rest of his delegation spoke of his group’s recently approved privately financed stadium plan and the government support behind it. The club recently learned the city approved infrastructure funding around their stadium site, clearing the way for them to get moving on the project. “I don’t think there’s any question that our bid can check the box of a soccer-specific stadium,” he said.

He also praised the success of the club at the USL level and the developments they’ve taken to further strengthen the club, such as their development academy.

The expansion committee, consisting of six league owners: Jonathan Kraft (New England Revolution), Cliff Illig (Sporting Kansas City), Bill McGuire (Minnesota United), Andrew Hauptman (Chicago Fire), Jay Sugarman (Philadelphia Union) and Joe Roth (Seattle Sounders), will take what they learned today and make their decision on the next two teams to join MLS. A vote is expected on December 14 and an announcement shortly thereafter.


  1. Atlanta united is a surprising ecxeption to crap first year teams. The diluted mediocrity is truely seen in The rest of the league when a team looses bench players. . . There is more i could say but . . .

  2. Where does the money for expansion go to besides execuitive salaries. Tired of the thievery. I want to see real competitive soccer mls does not cut it and neverending expansion dooms us to deal with diluted garber!!!!

    • it’s a pyramid scheme. We have to have big expansion team paychecks to fund the league we have. it’s why we will never see the end of expansion until the league can support itself financially. Just keep the $100 Million checks coming in and all is well.

    • Is Atlanta causing “diluted mediocrity?” Seems like they are doing the opposite and pushing other teams to improve and get younger or get left in the dust.

      Expansion greatly increases the level of play. A team might lose a low end starter or bench player, but they are able to buy two or three better players with an increased budget. The expansion wave has helped increase the level of play drastically over the last decade. Much of the money brought in was from expansion. Hopefully the increase in the level of play leads to increased audiences so that the growth can be sustainable.

  3. Glad to read that the Detroit backers are saying what should be obvious. The soccer specific stadiums that MLS favors are too damn small. Larger multi-purpose stadiums should not be a detriment for a city wanting a franchise. A caveat, however, is that any stadium used for soccer should have a grass field.

  4. There’s something pretty disturbing when rich people go begging.
    I’m sure they’re doing it for the love of the game and the good of the community.

    • I feel uncomfortable when sports fans grovel at the feet of leagues considering expansion.

      I’m sure that being a part of the Colts to Indy, Baltimore being passed over for Jacksonville, only to play in the CFL and manage to “steal the Browns from Cleveland” thing has jaded me.

      But God bless the Colts Marching Band that continued to play on during that whole thing…

      I’m not bowing down to Donnie G or anyone else to get an expansion franchise for any league.

      F that. Some of my fellow soccer fans are embarrassing themselves. I’m damn sure not taking time off from work to go kiss the ring at the airport or anywhere else.

      We can meet. We can talk at a “Town Hall”, but l won’t go any further.

      But that’s just me. Much respect to those that have a different perspective. There’s a part of me that admires their enthusiasm and dedication.

      • I don’t think showing the league how bad you want a team is groveling. If it weren’t for the Sons of Ben I don’t know how long it would have taken Philly to get a team.

        But those that are too cool to act like they care for an MLS team will be left out in the cold, there’s not that many more franchises left to start and there’s some significant cities without one. If Nashville or Cincy don’t come through with a team soon they will be left behind if San Diego, St. Louis, Detroit, or San Antonio get their crap together.

        Of course my hope is that one day the Canadian MLS teams can leave to form the basis of a small but productive Canadian league and we can get three more American franchises.

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