Don Garber: Major League Soccer to announce 30th team – 32 clubs the maximum?

By FPL360


Pro/rel finally on the table? 

In St. Louis City SC, Major League Soccer will see its 29th team kick off on Saturday against Austin FC. Expansion to St. Louis has been delayed by one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, with the league’s latest club finally to kick a ball, MLS commissioner Don Garber is hopeful to announce expansion to 30 teams soon. 

“I am hopeful that the league can announce the 30th club at some point this year,” Garber said at a media event held at the new MLS Apple TV studios in New York on Feb. 22. San Diego and Las Vegas are the favorites to land the 30th MLS franchise. But will that be the final round of expansion? 

Las Vegas has long been considered the frontrunner to take what seemed to be the final spot in MLS expansion. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the group consists of Sycuan, teaming with a billionaire from Egypt. The group wants to play at San Diego State University’s new Snapdragon Stadium. Vegas was long considered to have the inside track but appears to have problems getting a viable stadium approved. 

Garber on expansion: “There is no reason to not go larger”

Garber’s statements, however, that the league will not necessarily stop at 30 teams will leave the door open for whichever market loses out on this latest round of expansion. It also keeps the door ajar for other markets interested in an MLS franchise. “But the other major leagues in North America, the US, and Canada are 30 or larger,” Garber said later to a round table of select international journalists.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Lumen Field & Co. – All 29 MLS Stadiums at a glance

DRV PNK Stadium – Inter Miami CF – Capacity: 18,000

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PayPal Park – San Jose Earthquakes – Capacity: 18,000

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Dick’s Sporting Goods Park – Colorado Rapids – Capacity: 18,061

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Children’s Mercy Park – Sporting Kansas City – Capacity: 18,467

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Subaru Park – Philadelphia Union – Capacity: 18,500

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Allianz Field – Minnesota United FC – Capacity: 19,400

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Saputo Stadium – CF Montréal – Capacity: 19,619

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New Columbus Crew Stadium – Columbus Crew SC – Capacity: 20,000

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Audi Field – D.C. United – Capacity: 20,000

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Gillette Stadium – New England Revolution – Capacity: 20,000

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Gillette Stadium’s real capacity is 65,878.Artificially reduced to 20,000 for soccer games.

America First Field – Real Salt Lake City – Capacity: 20,213

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Q2 Stadium – Austin FC – Capacity: 20,500

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Toyota Stadium – FC Dallas – Capacity: 20,500

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Banc of California Stadium – Los Angeles FC – Capacity: 22,000

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BBVA Stadium – Houston Dynamo FC – Capacity: 22,039

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BC Place – Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Capacity: 22,120

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BC Place’s real capacity is 54,500, but it’s artificially reduced to 22,120.

CITYPARK – St. Louis City SC – Capacity: 22,500

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Soldier Field – Chicago Fire FC – Capacity: 24,955

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Soldier Field’s real capacity is 61,500, but it’s artificially reduced to 24,955.

Red Bull Arena – New York Red Bulls – Capacity: 25,000

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Providence Park – Portland Timbers – Capacity: 25,218

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Exploria Stadium – Orlando City SC – Capacity: 25,500

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TQL Stadium – FC Cincinnati – Capacity: 26,000

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Dignity Health Sports Park – Los Angeles Galaxy – Capacity: 27,000

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BMO Field – Toronto FC – Capacity: 28,351

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GEODIS Park – Nashville SC – Capacity: 30,000

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Yankee Stadium – New York City FC – Capacity: 30,321

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Yankee Stadium’s real capacity is 54,251, but it’s artificially reduced to 30,321. New York City FC will play some games at the Red Bull Arena.

Lumen Field – Seattle Sounders FC – Capacity: 37,722

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Lumen Field’s real capacity is 68,740, but it’s artificially reduced to 37,722. Four matches scheduled to use a larger capacity.

Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte FC – Capacity: 38,000

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Bank of America’s real capacity is 74,867, but it’s artificially reduced to 38,000. Some matches are played at full capacity.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta United FC – Capacity: 71,000

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s real capacity is 75,000, but it’s artificially reduced to 71,000.


“So, once we’ve decided we’re going to expand our league to cover the geography of the US and Canada, there is no reason to think we should not go larger, but right now, we have no plans for that, yet. We have a lot of big cities in this country that have no team.”

“We are a big country, and don’t forget we also have three teams in Canada,” Garber said. The commissioner added that cities like Tampa Bay, Detroit, Sacramento, and Phoenix remain interesting for the league. “So, I do think that 32 is likely the limit that any North American league could manage in terms of competitive format,” Garber said.

Garber on promotion and relegation: “Might change at some point”

But what will happen when the league has filled up all 32 spots? One way of further expansion would be the introduction of promotion and relegation, which would open the door to other markets in North America.

“You can’t ask somebody like [St. Louis City SC owner] Carolyn [Kindle] and her family to invest what could be $600-700m then find out that if you have a bad year, you are playing in a league that doesn’t offer the same opportunity as Major League Soccer,” Garber said. “By the way, that might change at some point a generation from now.” 

The introduction of promotion and relegation by MLS would be a watershed moment for American sports as none of the other sports leagues employ that mechanism. It is also a mechanism not employed by any of the other North American leagues. But with the tradition there in every major football league around the World, MLS now might have a mechanism in place to one day grow beyond the 32 teams in an organic fashion.




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