Charlotte tops the list for MLS expansion, says Don Garber

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SEATTLE – The MLS commissioner, Don garberHe said Friday that it is very likely that the next league expansion announcement will arrive in "the next few months" and that Charlotte, North Carolina, is leading the candidates.

Speaking in the annual speech on the state of the league before the MLS Cup final on Sunday, between host Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, Garber touched on a variety of issues, noting that five teams in Miami, Nashville, Tennessee ; Austin, Texas; St. Louis; and Sacramento, California, will enter the expansion proposal over the next few seasons.

As recently as the expansion announcement last month for Sacramento, Garber hinted that the league would take time to announce team number 30. Now, it seems that the thinking has changed. Garber added that Las Vegas and Phoenix are also among the top contenders, although they are working to catch up.

"It's fair to say that Charlotte has worked hard to get in front of the contestants," Garber said. "It starts with David Tepper, the owner of the Carolina Panthers. He is a guy very passionate about sports, he's very passionate about Charlotte."

One obstacle is Charlotte's candidacy plan to play at Bank of America Stadium, the home of the NFL Panthers. The 75,523 site capacity is much greater than the MLS prefers for an expansion team, but Garber said Tepper has been signaling the success of Atlanta United, which plays at the Mercedes-Benz stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons, as an example of the upward potential.

"[Tepper] reminds us that the league did not see what Atlanta would become," Garber said. "He would be the first to admit that. There are many things that are happening in Charlotte that are very similar to the things that are happening in Atlanta in terms of the diversity of their fan base and much of the corporate energy that is declining. We have committed to them and we will continue to do so. I think Carolina is a good football venue. You know it from the perspective of women's soccer and the perspective of youth soccer, should we be able to step forward and end up with a team in Charlotte? sure we will succeed. "

Las Vegas is in talks with the Baupost Group and its executive director, Seth Klarman, on the construction of a 25,000-seat stadium. That place would be part of a proposed remodeling on a 62-acre site that includes Cashman Field, the home of the USL Championship side, Las Vegas Lights.

Phoenix has long been seen by the MLS as a potential expansion market, with the USL Phoenix Rising team, with a proprietary group that includes Didier Drogba, the Advantage Sports Union CEO Alex Zheng, and the club governor Berke Bakay, who enjoy considerable success both on and off the field, with the team claiming the regular season title of the Western Conference last season.



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