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Tampa Bay misses out on MLS expansion this time

Tampa Bay Rowdies Darnell King reacts after losing 2-1 in extra time against the New York Bulls II Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 in St. Petersburg. CHRIS URSO | Times
Published Nov. 29, 2017

NEW YORK — Major League Soccer named its four finalists for two available expansion teams and, as expected, Tampa/St. Petersburg was not among them. The league will consider Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento, Calif., when it meets Dec. 6 to hear formal presentations.

Sacramento and Nashville are considered front-runners for the teams. Each winner will pay a $150 million expansion fee. Cincinnati and Detroit lack firm plans for new stadiums.

After each city makes its pitch to the league, its board of governors will meet Dec. 14 to continue discussions with representatives from every MLS club. The league expects to name the two expansion teams by the end of the year.

While Tampa Bay was left off this round of expansion cities, MLS does plan to add an additional two teams at a later date. Tampa/St. Petersburg will join Charlotte, N.C.; Indianapolis; Phoenix; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; St. Louis; San Antonio, Texas; and San Diego as cities considered for those spots.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards said in a statement that the USL franchise is not discouraged.

"While the Rowdies were not one of the four (expansion finalist), MLS made it clear that we remain in consideration for the expansion spots to be announced at a later date," said Edwards, 72.

"I personally had a medical setback (double bypass surgery) that put us behind — but undaunted. I continue to invest in refining our stadium plan and other elements of our bid to make it as strong and competitive as possible, and remain in communication with commissioner Don Garber and MLS. I firmly believe that this MLS expansion will come to pass."

The Nashville City Council approved $225 million in bonds to construct a 27,500-seat soccer stadium. Sacramento's ownership group said it was starting activity for a 19,621-seat stadium.

MLS has 22 teams this season, and Los Angeles is scheduled to start play in March. Former England star David Beckham was tentatively awarded a Miami team in 2014 but has not secured a stadium site. The league in 2015 announced plans to expand to 28 teams and said last December that teams 25 and 26 will start play by 2020.

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