Garber Lays Out MLS Expansion Process for FC Cincinnati

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On Thursday afternoon, Commissioner Don Garber socialized MLS’ latest expansion guidelines at a press conference following the MLS Board of Governors meeting in New York.

The Commissioners comments focused on the expansion process for MLS expansion slots 25 thru 28, the fees associated, and the timeline of the evaluation process.

Garber first announced the teams that have formally expressed interest in MLS expansion (in alphabetical order) as Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Second, Garber addressed the “Beckham situation” and the seemingly faltering plan to establish a MLS team in Miami. In short, there was no new news. Garber said that MLS will “continue to work with David Beckham and partners (to establish) a club in Miami.” There was no indication made that the slot could be available for one of the other interested cities.

Third, he outlined the process for expansion. To do so, he clarified the criteria for evaluation as follows.

  1. Committed ownership who is passionate about soccer and has the resources to invest in it
  2. A market/city with a history of strong fan support for soccer with additional considerations of size, geographic location, and corporate support
  3. A comprehensive stadium plan

Garber stated that all ten cities would be required to submit expansion applications to the league by Jan 31st, 2017. Those teams would then need work with the MLS expansion committee to conduct meetings and vet their application. The meetings will take place during the first three quarters of 2017. Applicants will be required to submit a variety of different documentation such as ownership structure, financial details, their stadium site plan with relevant government approvals, financial projections for soccer support, and an expression of support from the local soccer community.

Four winning bids from that process will be announced in two groups of two. The first two will be announced in the second or third quarter of 2017 and will start play in the 2020 MLS season. The entry fee for those clubs will be $150 MM. The second set of two clubs and the corresponding fee will be announced at a later date.

FC Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding released the following statement afterward.

“We are honored to be among the 10 cities invited to participate in Major League Soccer’s formal expansion process. Considering that our franchise launched just over a year ago in August of 2015, we feel the invitation from the MLS and Commissioner Don Garber is a testament to our rising city of Cincinnati. The support we have received from our fans, the business community and our civic leaders in our inaugural year shows that professional soccer at the highest level thrives here. Commissioner Garber’s visit was a cooperative effort that included our supporters, our partners at UC and our corporate partners and we were ecstatic he was able to see first-hand what is occurring here in our major-league hometown.  

Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead in a short period of time, but there was nothing that we heard today that discourages us. Cincinnati and our ownership have what it takes to successfully bid for MLS expansion. We have been working to build our infrastructure since day one because we have been and will always be committed to being the strongest franchise we can be. We have been clear about our commitment to bring professional soccer at the highest level to Cincinnati, and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to continue that building effort with the MLS.” 

Find the full MLS press release here.

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