Mar 3, 2021 - Sports

The state of Major League Soccer expansion

MLS teams, 2021

Major League Soccer training camps open this week, giving the league's 27 teams six weeks to prepare for the 2021 season, set to kick off April 17.

The state of play: MLS expansion continues to be fast and furious. Austin FC will debut this season, followed by Charlotte FC (2022) and St. Louis SC (2023) in the next couple years.

Yes, but: Sacramento Republic FC, a nine-year-old team in the United Soccer League (one level below MLS) that was set to join MLS in 2023, has hit a major roadblock in its expansion efforts.

  • Ron Burkle, co-owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins, had been attached as the lead investor for Sacramento's expansion team since 2019. But he backed out last week, citing pandemic-related costs and delays.
  • Sacramento expansion isn't dead in the water, but they'll have to find another investor to pony up the enormous expansion fee (St. Louis cost $200 million; Charlotte cost $325 million).

The big picture: MLS launched with 10 teams in 1996 (nine still exist), before growing to 16 teams by 2010 and 22 teams by 2017. Since then, at least one new team has debuted every year:

  • 2018: LAFC
  • 2019: FC Cincinnati
  • 2020: Inter Miami, Nashville SC
  • 2021: Austin FC
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