MLS Expansion News – Five Markets, Part Two

MLS expansion news from five more markets including recent updates from Cincinnati, Saint Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa / St. Petersburg.


On Sunday, Orange and Blue Press released an article that covered MLS expansion updates for Charlotte, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh, and Sacramento. This article will cover updates from the remaining five expansion markets, including Cincinnati.

Looking for more information on the basics of MLS expansion? Check out MLS Expansion 101.

For each market, the TV market size, existing team, venue, and investment group are listed along with a summary of recent developments. This information is followed by links to relevant news articles and resources. It’s important to note that the existing team in a market does not necessarily become the MLS team if a bid is granted, particularly if the team’s ownership is not part of the MLS bid.

Saint Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #21*
Team: Saint Louis FC – USL
Venue: A proposed $200M 20,000 seat stadium relying partially on public funds to be built near historic Union Station
Money: The SC STL investment group led by Paul Edgerley (Bain Capitol) and Jim Kavanaugh (Worldwide Technology / Saint Louis FC)
Summary: St. Louis’ bid has been regarded as an expansion frontrunner for some time, but has run into problems recently with a stadium proposal that relies partially on public funding.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 11/18 – St. Louis stadium proposal is revealed. [Fox 2]
  • 12/19 – Missouri’s governor elect Greitens is critical of the stadium proposal calling the public funding requested “welfare for millionaires.” [SI]
  • 12/23 – Saint Louis MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/5 – Counterpoint to “welfare for millionaires” [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/10 – Saint Louis Stadium public funding bill is thought to be dead [St. Louis Today]
  • 1/18 – Revived stadium bill calls for less tax money but more state-granted land. The decision on whether to put on April ballot has been postponed. [KSDK]

San Antonio

San Antonio, Texas

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #31*
Team: San Antonio FC – USL
Venue: Toyota Field would be expanded to at least 18,000 seats, possibly larger (plans not yet public). The stadium was originally built for NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions (dissolved), and is now owned by the city of San Antonio. Expansion would be funded publicly by San Antonio and Bexar County.
Money: SSE (Spurs Sports & Entertainment), ownership group of the San Antonio Spurs
Summary: If the stadium expansion funding is approved, this bid has several pieces in place including a top notch ownership group and a USL team with solid first year fan support. SSE plays their cards extremely close to the vest, so it’s difficult to say what’s going on behind the scenes. The vote to approve funding for stadium expansion will not occur until November at the earliest. It’s difficult to see how that fits with MLS’ decision time frame, especially for expansion spots 25 and 26. Spots 27 or 28 are more likely targets for this bid.

Recent News & Resources: 

  • 10/3 – San Antonio FC’s successful first season in USL. [Soccer Stadium Digest]
  • 12/15 – Bexar County is exploring funding for Toyota Stadium expansion. [Business Journal]
  • 1/15 – Report that discusses the implications of the San Diego Chargers move on San Antonio and questions the price tag of public funding for the stadium expansion. [Rivard]

San Diego

San Diego, California

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #28*
Team: Albion Pros – NPSL – Both USL and NASL are rapidly trying to stand up franchises in SD.
Venue: A proposed $200M stadium that could be shared with San Diego State University at the site of the existing Qualcomm Stadium
Money: Investment group led by Mike Stone (FS Investors) and Steve Altman (formerly Qualcomm)
Summary: Although the San Diego bid is behind others in terms of organization, the departure of the Chargers leaves a sports void that some believe is a game changer for the expansion picture in the West. Today the investment group announced their plans, a stadium rendering, and an aggressive timeline.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 1/6 – USL and NASL rumored to be starting franchises in San Diego [Soccer Nation]
  • 1/12 – San Diego Chargers leave for Los Angles, leaving void in San Diego sports market. [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/13 – Garber speaks to San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer about expansion after departure of the Chargers [MLS]
  • 1/15 – Not everyone in San Diego wants MLS…”soccer is never, ever going to be the answer. It’s soccer.” [S.D. Union Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The ownership group (previously unnamed) was confirmed and they report plans to build a privately funded $1B multi-use complex, with a $200M stadium that an MLS team could share with San Diego State University.  [San Diego Tribune]
  • 1/23 – The investors would purchase the land at market value from the city and the city would agree to share maintenance costs. An urgent adoption of the plan by the city is requested by January 31st. [NBC7 SD]

Tampa / St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg, Florida

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #11*
Team: Tampa Bay Rowdies – NASL
Venue: The Rowdies current venue, publicly owned Al Lang stadium, would be expanded from 7,800 to 18,000 seats and renovated with private funds. The city would then pay infrastructure costs and continue to lease the waterfront stadium to the Rowdies.
Money: Investment group led by Bill Edwards (Tampa Bay Rowdies owner, former real estate executive)
Summary: Tampa’s bid is strong because they are the largest TV market of the ten and their stadium plan is simple relative to other bids. The Tampa City Council will vote on the plan on May 2.
Recent News & Resources: 

  • 12/6 – Tampa / St. Pete Announces MLS bid and stadium expansion plans [WFLA]
  • 1/4 – Tampa Bay City Council Meets to discuss stadium renovation proposal. [Tampa Bay Times]
  • 1/4 – Cincinnati Enquirer’s Pat Brennan explores Tampa Bay’s Al Lang stadium and bid for MLS expansion, labeling them “silent assasins.” [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 1/9 – Tampa Bay / St. Pete MLS Expansion Profile – Brian Straus [SI]
  • 1/10 – St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce is creating a special council to promote the Tampa bid. [Tampa Business Journal]


Cincinnati, Ohio

TV Market: Nielsen DMA #36*
Team: FC Cincinnati – USL
Venue: Currently sharing the 35,000 seat Nippert Stadium with the University of Cincinnati, but are looking to secure a site for a soccer specific stadium
Money: Investment group led by Carl Lindner III (Great American Insurance)
Summary: Garber’s visit in late November bolstered local hopes for an MLS future. Cincinnati’s bid has been quiet relative to many since the December MLS announcement though. Ownership and management are believed to be working hard behind the scenes on a privately funded stadium plan, but details are sparse.
Recent News & Resources:

  • 11/29 – Don Garber visits Cincinnati for Town Hall [O&B Press]
  • 12/15 – FC Cincinnati GM Berding says team is looking for 20 acre stadium site between Ohio river and University of Cincinnati [Cincinnati Enquirer]
  • 12/23 – Columbus article sites Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt’s possible reluctance (in July) over competing with another Ohio team. Precourt is one of a five member MLS expansion decision committee. [Columbus Dispatch]
  • 1/19 – Brief update on MLS expansion from FC Cincinnati GM Jeff Berding (VIDEO) –  [Local 12]


Cincinnati’s bid continues to be strong. A convincing plan for a privately-funded soccer specific stadium is the missing piece of the puzzle. That plan, combined with the current ownership, management, team, and fan support would give the plan credentials to compete with the best bids in the nation.

A few things become clear when looking at expansion updates from other markets.

First, the competition is strong and there is a lot of it. As Alexi Lalas stated in an Enquirer interview, “this is a gold rush”, with many of the nation’s wealthiest businessmen trying to stake a claim. Almost every bid has a billionaire level ownership group with professional sports expertise on staff. Each bid is looking for areas where it can differentiate itself.

Second, getting a stadium deal done is difficult and time consuming, especially if you are looking for help from the local public. The red tape and decision timeframes involved with public funding could be the demise of some of these bids.

Finally, the landscape of the expansion race can change very quickly. The Chargers left San Diego in early January, and overnight that market became dramatically more attractive. San Diego is the MLS expansion darling this week. Who will be next?

Expansion applications for all ten markets are due on January 31st. A decision on who gets the next two expansion slots is expected in the third fiscal quarter of 2017. A lot can change between now and then. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.

*NOTE: Nielsen DMAs are referenced in this article for TV market size information. DMAs seem most relevant to television advertising, but which market size ranking to use is debatable. Some argue that these markets could be combined with other nearby markets to create a larger market (i.e.: Cincinnati/Dayton). Because DMA’s combine surrounding areas already and there is no clear evidence that MLS is evaluating any markets as combined, this series of articles will not do so.


2 thoughts on “MLS Expansion News – Five Markets, Part Two”

  1. Glory Glory sacramento, sacramento republic fc MLS slot 24 or 25 we R MLS ⚽ready, all boxes are ✔ & very ready to go, ownership is very strong, fan base is like no other, stadium plans & site all is ready. What city else is even closer other than the capital city

  2. Sacramento 25 slot, ain’t no other city even close, Don Garber knows it ,best fans in the world, attendance at Sacramento Kings games & at r minor league Sacramento river cats attendance r incredible, we reach over a million in attendance, fan support is here ,glory glory sacramento republic fc

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