Garber: Minnesota could join MLS in '17; Sacramento, St. Louis promising
It's "conceivable" that Minnesota United enters MLS in 2017, league commissioner Don Garber told SI's Grant Wahl on the Planet Fútbol Podcast.
Speaking at the MLS SuperDraft in Baltimore, Garber addressed the league's expansion timeline, with four teams–Atlanta United FC, Minnesota, LAFC and Miami–set to join the league prior to another four-team round of expansion.
Atlanta is earmarked for 2017, while LAFC, which revealed its colors and crest last week, has its entry set for 2018. SI.com reported last month that the league is making it a priority to admit two expansion teams at a time, in the interest of maintaining and even number of clubs in the league, and with Miami still finalizing its stadium situation, Minnesota is the more likely candidate to enter first. But will Minnesota enter in 2017?
"Possibly, but no decision has been made there," Garber said. "It's conceivable. We've obviously had conversations with Bill McGuire and their ownership group but we've still got some work to do to determine if that can happen.
"I'm very confident about LAFC starting in '18, less confident about Miami. That doesn't mean we're not focused on Miami as our 24th team ... Every day something is happening down that that we're engaged in or read about or speak to Tim Leiweke about, so maybe an update soon."
[Expansion comments begin at 21:20]
Minnesota club president Nick Rogers told the Star Tribune Thursday that the club is aiming for 2017, while MLS had a representative visit Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium earlier this week to check out the venues as potential temporary home sites while a new soccer stadium in St. Paul is built.
Garber also touched on the next wave of expansion, answering whether NFL's relocation involving St. Louis and potentially San Diego opened up opportunities for MLS in those markets.
"St. Louis has been on our radar screen as long as the league has been in existence," Garber said. "We've never been able to find the right investor, we've never been able to find the right stadium solution. We know that there is a stadium possibility, whether or not that's an MLS possibility still to be seen, but we know that there is support for a facility in a great location and we've had discussions with those that were part of that project about bringing MLS to town. The fact that there's one fewer pro team there I think is a positive for our league as it relates to St. Louis.
"San Diego is a market that has got to figure itself out ... That probably took a step back on our list because if the Chargers were to leave it would probably be an opportunistic market for us.
"Four teams are going to come into the league at some point. St. Louis is probably, along with Sacramento, kind of leading the pack, if you will, but it's no different than a 5,000-meter run. Sometimes the first guy out of the gate doesn't finish the race, and sometimes they finish third."
While in Baltimore, SI asked a number of coaches and executives what they thought would be an ideal city for MLS expansion, and St. Louis topped the list (full video above).