Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber announced plans Thursday for expansion to 28 teams, including a deadline for owners to apply and a new franchise fee.
The fee for the two teams expected to be granted in 2017 is jumping to $150 million. Garber also set a Jan. 31, 2017, deadline for interested potential owners or ownership groups to apply.
The league will have 22 teams with the addition of Atlanta and Minnesota, which will debut next season.
The Los Angeles Football Club will join in 2018 as the 23rd team. The league announced it is “making progress” on plans to add a team in Miami — the high-profile bid that includes David Beckham — that would bring the league to 24.
Minnesota paid a $100 million franchise fee. In contrast, Toronto paid a $10 million fee in 2006. The fee does not cover the entire investment owners will incur in starting up a franchise, such as staff salaries and stadium costs.
Following the meeting Thursday of the MLS Board of Governors in New York, Garber said the two new expansion teams, slated to start play by 2020, would be announced in late 2017. The timeline and fees for the two additional franchises were not yet set.
“Since announcing plans to expand to 28 clubs late last year, many potential ownership groups have contacted us, and numerous public officials have stated their desire to bring an MLS expansion team to their city,” Garber said in a prepared statement.
Ten markets have expressed interest in an MLS team, including Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, Detroit, and San Diego.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg market is one of the markets son the list.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies chairman and CEO Bill Edwards launched a bid on Dec. 7 to bring an expansion franchise to St. Petersburg. As part of the bid, Edwards announced an $80 million plan for a privately funded expansion and renovation of Al Lang Stadium, the 7,500-seat facility on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront that the Rowdies call home. While Edwards has refered to having a strong investment group behind him, he has not identified its members.
While St. Petersburg may be on the list, Edwards’ push is not nearly as far along as other cities’.
Sacramento is considered one of the strongest candidates. The USL side, the Sacramento Republic, hosted Garber for a rally in April to demonstrate the city’s enthusiasm for a top-level team. Sacramento already has an agreement on a public-private soccer-specific stadium.
Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert, along with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores, first announced a bid for a Detroit MLS team in April, with plans for a $1 billion mixed-use stadium.
Another strong bid is expected from St. Louis. The potential ownership group for SC St. Louis includes former Bain Capital managing director Paul Edgerley and Jim Kavanaugh, owner of St. Louis FC of the USL.