Phoenix set to join the race for an MLS expansion team

Add Phoenix to the list of cities that could land an MLS expansion team. The city has been invited by MLS to enter the bidding for an expansion team, joining 10 other cities that were already in the mix.

Phoenix’s bid will be led by the ownership group of Phoenix Rising FC, the USL team that got new investors last year and was quickly rebranded. The new ownership group has ties to the community and immediately invested money in the club. Most importantly, they already have the land for a stadium.

“MLS has considered Phoenix to be an attractive soccer market for many years,” MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement. “In fact, we visited Phoenix and toured potential stadium sites 13 years ago, including the site recently secured by Phoenix Rising FC within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in south Scottsdale.”

The toughest task for any MLS expansion team is getting a stadium built. Some teams, like Atlanta United, benefit from sharing ownership with an NFL team and can share, but the vast majority of MLS sides need to get one built. That means securing a site, getting political and community support and then sorting out funding. Phoenix still doesn’t have a stadium deal completely done, but having the land in hand is a giant step.

Phoenix is a nice soccer market, both in youth participation and in support for national team matches that have been played there. They’ve also gotten good TV ratings for matches, but while many people have thought it could be a good home for an MLS team, getting committed ownership with the ambition for MLS has been tough. It appears they have that now and are going to make a run at a team.

MLS had previously named Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg as the 10 cities in the mix for the four expansion teams to be handed out and take the league to 28 teams. Applications for expansion are due at the end of January, with the first two expansion teams set to begin play in 2020 then the other two starting at a later date.