BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Following a meeting of the MLS Board of Governors, MLS commissioner Don Garber announced on Thursday that the league intends to expand to 30 teams, with teams 28 and 29 requiring an expansion fee of $ 200 million.
Garber also stated that the Board had authorized the commissioner's office to advance into exclusive discussions with St. Louis and Sacramento with an eye towards those two cities being the 28th and 29th teams.
"In the last 10 years we have been experiencing unprecedented growth for a major league in North America," said Garber, following the Board of Governors meeting. "Expansion has been a key driver of growth and it really is a great measure of the enormous enthusiasm and the commitment that our fans have in markets both new and old to support our league and our players and to see the sport grow." 1
"We'll be asking for their formal and final plans for a commitment of corporate support, the final composition of their ownership group and detailed economics on their funding of both their team operations and their stage plans, "said Garber.
While the league has said that times it would stop expanding to 28 teams, the announcement was not a surprise. Garber stated that the strength of the Sacramento and St. Louis bids was part of what drove the board to decide to expand to 30 teams.
Sacramento's heaps of landing a team were boosted in January when billionaire Ron Burkle became the new lead investor in the Sacramento Republic soccer team. The team currently plays in the second-tier United Soccer League.
Burkle is a co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins with a net worth at $ 2 billion at Forbes magazine.
The St. Louis group includes World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh and the Taylor family, owners of the rental car company Enterprise Holdings.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Sacramento Republic said: "Today is a monumental step in the process and we are This is closer to reaching our goal of bringing Major League Soccer to Sacramento, not a better fit than our city and today's announcement is a testament to the strength of Sacramento's bid, and most importantly, to the faith and devotion of Republic FC fans We will continue our ongoing communication with the Commissioner and with MLS and look forward to finalizing all next steps to deliver MLS to Sacramento. "
In terms of the number of teams the league will stop expanding, Garber didn ' t commit to a definitive number.
"I don't know that we have to act on the final number of teams in the league," said Garber. "We have a lot of work to determine what the future state of MLS is in 10 years and in 20 years. We continue to believe that there are many, many cities across the country that could support an MLS team, with a great stadium and a great fanbase and great local ownership that will invest in the sports in their community. "Garber added that MLS will" take our time "on team 30, though it is in discussions with the likes of Phoenix, Las Vegas , Detroit and Charlotte. the next number of years. "
Garber lauded the bids of Sacramento and St. Louis but also stressed that both ownership group still had work to do. Garber said that Sacramento needed to finalize their corporate sponsorship as well as some elements of the stage plan. St. Louis needs to finalize his stage plan as well, but Garber's expectation is that both cities will get their respective bids over the line.
"I've got confidence in both markets," said Garber. "We would not be here today without the confidence of our ownership group to put all the elements in place to give them the opportunity to finalize the deal."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.