Major League Soccer considers St. Pete's Rowdies as possible expansion team

Toby Graves
December 19, 2016

Garber said any expansion city must have a stadium ready for play in 2020.

With David Beckham still struggling to get his Major League Soccer franchise off the ground in Miami, MLS commissioner Don Garber on Thursday outlined plans for continued expansion from this season's 20 teams to 28. The two have also said they would be interested in buying the Carolina Panthers when the franchise becomes available. Garber also set a January 31, 2017, deadline for interested potential owners or ownership groups to apply.

In addition to Sacramento and St. Louis, groups from Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego and Tampa-St.

Teams 21, 22 and 23 are set to come online in the next two seasons (Atlanta, Minnesota in 2017; Los Angeles FC in 2018), and the league appears to be holding out hope global soccer star David Beckham can advance his Miami project and become team No. 24 - the formal plan released by the league publicly only address spots 25-28.

When asked about what makes Raleigh an attractive market to host an MLS team, Garber, who met with the MLS board of governors in NY on Thursday, noted the local ownership and the area's soccer history below the professional level. Two more will be awarded and begin play at dates still to be determined. "We look forward to reviewing expansion applications in the coming months and conducting formal meetings in 2017 with possible team owners".

North Carolina FC released a statement later Thursday: "Earlier today, Major League Soccer announced that the Triangle is among one of the 10 communities being considered for expansion". Its USL team, the Sacramento Republic, hosted Garber for a rally in April to demonstrate the city's enthusiasm for a top-level team.

In November, the Sacramento City Council approved a proposal for a development project that would include a soccer stadium.

The fee and the exact timeline for the next two teams is still to be decided, Garber said, but there appears to be no shortage of potential owners.

"Having been through this rodeo before I will say I prefer the tenor of what we're getting from Major Leagues Soccer to what we were getting a year ago", said Dave Peacock, a member of the SC STL Executive Committee.

"Combine that with the strong investor group we've pulled together, our plan for a new multipurpose downtown stadium, our geographical location and television market, and I like our chances". "At last, all of that hard work will bear fruit". Edwards said he wants the Rowdies, now in the United Soccer League, to be one of those teams.

"There is a high probability that soccer will not, the MLS will not come to St. Louis if the vote does not pass", said Jim Kavanaugh, Vice Chair of the SCSTL group.

"It's a big day for St. Louis", said SC STL Chairman Paul Edgerly, who would likely be the team's majority owner. 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.

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