Major cities across America have been bidding for an MLS expansion team for months. Last week, commissioner Don Garber and the league’s Expansion Committee narrowed its search down to four finalists. Those finalists included Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento. On December 6th, the groups leading the charge for these expansion bids made their final presentations to the committee. The committee members, along with the commissioner, will deliberate, and the new MLS expansion teams will be announced next week on December 14th.
FC Cincinnati is probably the favorite to receive one of the expansion bids. The bidding group is led by Carl H. Linder III, co-CEO and owner of American Financial Group and the CEO of FC Cincinnati, and Scott Farmer, CEO of Cintas Corporation. FC Cincinnati competed in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open, a North American tournament composed of teams from the NASL, USL, and MLS. They were by far the most successful non-MLS team in the tournament, defying the odds to reach the semifinals, where they lost in a 3-2 nail biter to the New York Red Bulls. Needless to say, Cincy would be able to compete in the MLS right away. They could be the next Atlanta United.
The city of Detroit is another top contender. Not so much because of previous success on the field, but because of the ownership leading the charge for their expansion bid. This group is being led by Dan Gilbert, Tom Gores, and the Ford family. Gilbert is the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gores owns the Detroit Pistons, and of course, the Ford family owns the Detroit Lions. With that much experience at the executive level, it will be hard to deny them a spot.
Nashville is becoming a great sports city. The Titans are battling for a playoff spot in the NFL, and the Predators exploded onto the scene with a Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup finals last season. With that being said, Nashville is still probably the long shot of the four teams. Their group is led by John Ingram of Ingram Industries, Inc., as well as the Wilf and Turner families. The Wilf’s own the Minnesota Vikings, while the Turner family represents the managing partners of MarketStreet Enterprises.
Sacramento has been up and down as a sports city as of late. Rumors have circulated about the possible sale of the Kings, but the team looks like it is staying put now. The managing partners of this expansion group are solid, but the city itself has not proven to be overly successful as a fan base. The group is led by the minority owners of the Kings, Kevin Nagle and Mark Friedman, as well as San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York. They could certainly sneak in and steal a bid, but my money is on Cincinnati and Detroit.