'Some point soon' - MLS expansion plans for 2023 and beyond, including Las Vegas & San Diego
Welcome, St. Louis! MLS brought the Midwest city into the fold for 2023, with the expansion club joining the Western Conference for the new season.
There's now an odd number of teams (29) in MLS, though comments from league officials suggest that won't be the case for long. On February 22, 2023, commissioner Don Garber said that "the 30th team will come at some point soon. We'd like to get that announced by the end of the year".
GOAL takes a look at the current state of MLS and what the future could hold.
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How many teams are in MLS for 2023?
With the addition of St. Louis City SC, there will be 29 clubs in MLS in 2023.
That will be broken down to 15 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference.
What are the most recent MLS expansion clubs?
In the last six years alone, nine teams have joined MLS, as listed below.
|Team||Year joined MLS|
|St. Louis City SC||2023|
Will MLS expand again anytime soon?
Yes, MLS is actively looking to grow to 30 teams as soon as possible.
In December, commissioner Don Garber said MLS will "try and get something done with our 30th team within the next 10 months.”
“We have not yet determined when that 30th team will start playing," Garber added. "The 30th team will not be in by 2023 [for Leagues Cup]. That’s something everybody should be aware of.”
Garber has since confirmed that an announcement would come "some point soon".
There are not active plans yet to go beyond 30 teams, however the existence of multiple confirmed candidates to join MLS suggests further expansion is possible in the future. Garber told reporters "never say never" when asked about going beyond 30.
Where could MLS create expansion teams?
Las Vegas had been the frontrunner, according to Garber, but San Diego seems to be catching up in the chase.
“I'm very, very focused on that,” Garber told Taylor Twellman last year. “We're looking at building a stadium right off the strip.”
There is the possibility that Las Vegas could start play before getting a soccer-specific stadium by competing at the NFL's new Allegiant Stadium, which theoretically could speed up the process of a club joining MLS as it wouldn't need to wait for construction.
Additionally, Garber has recently said that San Diego and Phoenix are also contenders for an expansion club, with particular attention given to the California city that currently hosts the USL's San Diego Loyal.
“I'm a big believer in San Diego,” Garber said last year. "I think there's a view that San Diego, it's too nice there and people are out surfing and hanging out at the beach and I just don't buy it. I think San Diego's a great sports market, it's a gateway city.”
He added in his latest round of remarks that San Diego remained on the table.
Is Sacramento going to get an MLS team?
Sacramento had previously been awarded an expansion team only for investors to pull out at the start of the pandemic in a heartbreaking twist for Sacramento Republic FC.
There are no longer active plans to bring the Republic to MLS, and the club has no chance of being the 30th team.
If MLS expands again in the future, though, Sacramento will likely make a renewed push to enter the United States' top division.