MLS announces the requirements, rules and timeline for expansion to 28 teams

BY Ryan Rosenblatt • December 15, 2016

MLS has previously announced that they will expand to 28 teams. Now, after a meeting of the MLS Board of Governors finalized the way forward for MLS expansion, we know what they will consider, what the requirements are and when they will award out the next four expansion teams.

For starters, MLS is requiring that all interested markets submit applications for expansion by the end of January 31, 2017. At that points, all of the potential expansion markets will be in.

The expansion application will need to have an account of all of the owners and their financial information. It will also need details on the team's stadium plan: from the location, to the financing and what government hurdles stand in the way. Finally, the application will need a comprehensive business plan and, for the first time, commitment letters for stadium naming rights and kit sponsors. That review will also include plans for training facilities, academies and all of the other infrastructure that can end up topping $100 million.

The application process is more formalized and detailed than ever before. Stadium naming rights and kit sponsors are usually brought into the equation long after an expansion team has been awarded and, because everyone is applying at once, the league will be able to compare ownership groups and stadium plans side-by-side.

Once the expansion applications are in, the league will meet with everyone who applies before announcing two expansion teams at some point between April and September of 2017.

The two teams that the league adds will be teams 25 and 26 in the league. There is no set date for them to announce teams 27 and 28, with the league deciding on the timeline for those two teams after January, when they've reviewed the applications.

The expansion fee for teams 25 and 26 will be $150 million, which is a continued increase from past expansion teams. The expansion fee for the next two teams will be decided when they lay out a timeline for those teams.

MLS is currently at 20 teams, with Atlanta and Minnesota set to enter the league in 2017. Los Angeles' second team comes into the league in 2018 and, theoretically, Miami will be the league's 24th team. That's the stage for the next four teams, but there have been plenty of hiccups with Miami and it's possible that the January applicants could be trying for one of five teams if they cannot sort things out in South Florida.

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