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Rowdies among 10 finalists for MLS expansion spot

Midfielder Georgi Hristov (10 ) is stopped on his scoring attempt in the first half. The Tampa Bay Rowdies played the Carolina Rail Hawks in N.A.S.L. action at Al Lang Stadium in St Petersburg, FL on Saturday evening, April 23, 2016.
DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times

Midfielder Georgi Hristov (10 ) is stopped on his scoring attempt in the first half. The Tampa Bay Rowdies played the Carolina Rail Hawks in N.A.S.L. action at Al Lang Stadium in St Petersburg, FL on Saturday evening, April 23, 2016. DAVID W DOONAN | Special To The Times

ST. PETERSBURG — Now that the Tampa Bay Rowdies are officially a candidate for expansion into Major League Soccer, they don't want to waste any time getting there.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced the list of 10 teams up for expansion, with the first two to be added for the 2020 season.

"I want to be the first of the ten potential cities to earn an MLS franchise," said Rowdies owner Bill Edwards on Thursday after Garber held a media session to lay out the timeline for hopeful teams.

The just completed season, won by Seattle, saw the MLS field 20 squads but Atlanta and Minnesota entering next year, LAFC in 2018 and Miami expected to be team No. 24.

Garber, who previously had said expansion will continue to 28, said Teams 25 and 26 will be announced during the middle of 2017, at an expansion fee of $150 million each, to begin play in 2020. Teams 27 and 28 will announced at a later time, one Edwards obviously doesn't want to wait around for.

The other candidates are Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Sacramento, Saint Louis, San Antonio and San Diego.

Tampa Bay seems to score well in the three areas considered top priorities by the league, as it revealed Thursday: committed local ownership, a market with a history of strong fan support, and a comprehensive stadium plan.

Last week Edwards revealed an $80 million renovation plan to Al Lang that would go into place if the Rowdies are granted MLS status.

"It's great to know that less than two weeks after announcing our #MLS2StPete campaign, Major League Soccer is acknowledging us as one of the potential expansion cities," Edwards said.

The Rowdies will submit an expansion application by a Jan. 31 deadline.

Rowdies among 10 finalists for MLS expansion spot 12/15/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 8:56am]
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