Sunday, July 22, 2018
Sports

MLS expansion is coming to Nashville; Tampa Bay may be a future candidate

Nashville apparently is in. Now, three other MLS expansion hopefuls — and a fourth that has been in limbo for years — will await their fate with the growing league, with the Tampa Bay area lurking behind the leaders as a possible future destination.

The league said Tuesday that commissioner Don Garber will join political and business figures today at the Country Music Hall of Fame for a "major soccer announcement." According to multiple reports, MLS will announce it’s expanding to Nashville, with the team probably beginning play in 2020.

The city and team plan to build a 27,500-seat, $275 million stadium at the fairgrounds a few miles south of downtown. The construction timeline would require the club to initially play in a temporary location, such as Vanderbilt University.

The league’s board of governors approved the Tennessee bid at meetings in New York last week. It is planning to soon invite a second city, with Cincinnati, Sacramento and Detroit in the running. Also, a long-delayed Miami bid, led by David Beckham, is moving closer to fruition.

A second team in Southern California, Los Angeles FC, will begin play in 2018 at a new stadium next to the L.A. Coliseum, raising the number of teams to 23. Seeking an even number, MLS is likely to have one newcomer start in 2019 and two in 2020.

With FC Cincinnati setting second-division attendance records, it is a strong candidate to receive the next slot and enter in 2019, followed by Nashville and Miami the following year.

If that is the case, Detroit, Sacramento and several bidding cities that were not among the finalists will vie for two additional spots in the coming years. They are the Tampa Bay area, Charlotte, Raleigh, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Phoenix, St. Louis and San Diego.

Nashville was back in the pack a year ago but gained momentum with a bid backed by billionaire John Ingram and the Wilf brothers, who own the NFL’s Vikings. Nashville has drawn large crowds for international matches but has almost no soccer history. MLS, however, was swayed by the ownership, stadium plan, the city’s cultural dynamic and demographics, and a pro sports market that has embraced the NHL’s Predators.

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