On Wednesday night in Kansas City while the MLS All-Stars were in the midst of a 3-1 defeat to AS Roma at Sporting Park, the news of the day quickly turned to MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s halftime announcement on the match’s broadcast on ESPN2 that the league plans to expand to 24 teams before the 2020 season.
Major League Soccer, which had just 10 teams in 2004, went through a series of expansions starting with Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake in 2005 and having quick success in new MLS markets like Toronto, Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal to reach 19 teams to start the 2012 season. Earlier this year, it was announced that the 20th team, New York City FC, would start play in the 2015 season. That leaves four more spots open to new expansion clubs and plenty of time to find them.
“The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league,” Garber said in a news release. “As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”
In the past, Garber has stated a desire to expand into the southwest corner of the US, with markets such as Orlando, Miami and Atlanta among those that have made pushes to get onto the MLS map. As have Minneapolis, Detroit, San Antonio and St. Louis, among others.
MLS plans to take into account several factors, lined out in the press release distributed during the All-Star Game.
Committed and engaged ownership
A comprehensive stadium plan
Demonstrated fan support for professional soccer in the market
Support from sponsors, television partners and other constituents
A strategic business plan for the launch and successful operation of the club.
MLS is already involved in discussions with potential ownerships groups in several markets.
On the field, Roma scored in the first four minutes of the first and second halves to take a 2-0 lead in the 47th minute. A 68th minute goal put the game out of reach for the All-Stars, but they still persisted and LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez netted a stoppage-time goal for the final 3-1 tally.
Kevin Strootman and Alessandro Florenzi both finished with a goal and an assist for Roma, who are in the middle of preseason preparation for the 2013-2014 Serie A season set to open on August 24.
Sounders FC rookie defender DeAndre Yedlin was the lone Seattle representative on the matchday squad and subbed into the match for Houston Dynamo defender Corey Ashe after 66 minutes.
“It was incredible. To finally get on the field and Thierry Henry’s on my team and Landon Donovan’s right next to me – just playing with these players is a dream come true and an experience I’ll never forget,” Yedlin said.
All 20 players on the MLS roster saw action in the match, with Real Salt Lake defender Tony Beltran and Sporting Kansas City defender Aurelien Colin playing the full match.
Yedlin will return to Seattle on Thursday and Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said it was a good possibility that he would be available for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso was also named an inactive All-Star, his third straight All-Star selection, and did not travel to Kansas City for the match.