Major League Soccer unveiled a new process and timeline for the next round of expansion in the years to come. Yes, beyond Los Angeles Football Club’s entry into the league in 2018.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber held a conference call with reporters on Thursday, and spoke directly and indirectly about LAFC a couple times during the call.
First, it appears the team passed through some sort of provisional member stage with the Banc of California Stadium project fully underway, as Garber noted during his opening remarks of the call:
LAFC is now a full member of the board. They'll debut in 2018, and they've made a presentation on their stadium, which has now fully broken ground and under construction, and we're just very excited to see how that project comes together in downtown Los Angeles.
So two years, $110 million expansion fee and a stadium construction project happening. You did it, LAFC! Now you just need to play games in MLS.
The other main reference to LAFC was an indirect one. A reporter asked Garber about the prospect of LAFC entering the league alone in 2018. It appears as though David Beckham’s Miami expansion plan was intended to enter the league alongside LA, but happily for us LAFC had its act together and is making progress, while Miami is still trying to figure out a stadium situation and reportedly bring more rich people aboard as owners.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say there’s a zero percent chance Miami will be ready to play for the 2018 season, and with no other expansion teams yet announced as in by MLS, the signs point to LAFC entering alone. When asked if bringing in one team and not an even pair would be an issue, Garber responded.
“We've had odd number of teams in the past,” he said. “It's not optimum, and we try to do everything we can to avoid it. We still need to figure out how it all rolls out. But in the event we do have an odd number of teams, the goal is to have it for a very short period of time.”
With the next round of expansion decisions expected to come in the summer or fall of 2017, it seems highly unlikely, though still within the realm of possibility, that one of those teams would “jump the line” ahead of Miami and enter with LAFC in 2018. They could jump ahead of Miami, but a run-up of only 6-9 months before the 2018 season seems untenable, not least when comparing to LAFC’s unprecedented 3.5 year run-up to launching.
So LAFC will probably be like the Montreal Impact, the last team to enter MLS alone, although given Garber’s language it doesn’t appear to be absolutely set in stone just yet. We’ll see.
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