With Sacramento waiting in the wings, Major League Soccer officially announced Wednesday it has granted an expansion team to Minneapolis.
“It is my distinct pleasure to welcome Minnesota to Major League Soccer,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during a noisy news conference in downtown Minneapolis. He handed an MLS scarf to Bill McGuire, lead owner of the new team.
The announcement came a little more than a week after MLS confirmed that it was in advanced talks with McGuire, owner of the minor league Minnesota United FC, for an expansion team.
Garber made no mention Wednesday of expansion plans beyond Minnesota, which will become the league’s 24th team. But Garber has said in the past week that he believes MLS can grow beyond its previously stated limit of 24 teams.
That would figure to bode well for Sacramento, which is widely believed to be next in line for a team. After MLS disclosed its talks with the Minneapolis group last week, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said the league has told him “it’s not a matter of if, but when” that Sacramento will get a team.
For the time being, city officials and executives with Sacramento Republic FC, the popular minor-league franchise, are focusing on fine-tuning plans for a new MLS stadium at the downtown railyard. The privately financed stadium, expected to cost around $150 million, would be built only if Sacramento is granted an MLS team.
Garber said over the weekend that he’s confident the league can expand beyond 24 teams, although it will take several months for MLS officials to decide how quickly the next round of expansion would take place.
Sacramento’s entry could be accelerated if Miami, which is scheduled to become the 23rd team, falters. Miami and its lead investor, soccer star David Beckham, so far have been unable to come up with a stadium plan.
The Minnesota team is expected to begin play in 2018. McGuire and his investors, including the owners of baseball’s Minnesota Twins and the NBA’s Timberwolves, plan to build a stadium in downtown Minneapolis. McGuire said details on a stadium plan will be released “in the weeks to come.” The announcement was held at the Twins’ stadium, Target Field.
Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.