Soccer fans across the U.S. are impatiently waiting for the MLS expansion announcement on December 14.
According to Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl, only Sacramento, Cincinnati and Nashville are frontrunners for the next two spots available.
Between the national attention placed on Cincinnati’s strong fan base this year, the recent sponsorship deal announced with Mercy Health, and now its progress on a brand new stadium, Cincinnati looks to be a lock. While corporate sponsorship remains a concern in the Ohio city, we would be surprised if MLS passes up the opportunity to have those raucous fans in its league.
Sacramento has also emerged as an interesting bid and in some ways is seen as the safe pick. Earlier in the year, San Diego appeared to steal some of Sacramento’s thunder as many presumed MLS would only add one California team to the league. However, with its major setback regarding stadium development, San Diego fell out of the running and others moved up the rankings. Compared with almost every other location, Sacramento has steadily checked all the boxes that MLS asks from potential expansion cities. Questions still linger regarding the city’s fanbase, but after finishing #2 in USL attendance this past year they have a strong foundation for growth. Just how saturated is the California soccer market, though?
This one is an intriguing underdog story. Originally a longshot, Nashville has quietly become one of the nation’s top sports markets. The fast-growing metro area and youthful culture lends itself well to a soccer franchise. The club also just received city council support for a soccer-specific stadium and will start playing in the USL in 2018. But will Major League Soccer take a risk without any historical data to indicate whether there’s an appetite for the sport in Nashville?
Regardless of the December 14 outcome, we’ll be watching all three cities closely over the coming months. The soccer climate in all three regions is heating up, and whichever city falls short in the upcoming vote, may become the immediate frontrunner for the subsequent expansion vote.