MLS announces franchise in Miami; is Cincinnati next?

Almost four years after David Beckham announced plans to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami, the English soccer icon finally was awarded an expansion franchise.

Soccer fans in Cincinnati are hoping for a much shorter wait as MLS is expected to select one more club before the start of the season and two more at a later time to be determined.

However, no more details on the expansion process were released during the hour-long press conference , streamed live on on Monday to announce MLS Miami. MLS Commissioner Don Garber made Miami official while placing league scarves around the necks of Beckham and his partners.

“It is with tremendous pride that we welcome Miami to Major League Soccer,” Garber said in a league release. “With David Beckham, Marcelo Claure, Jorge and José Mas, Masayoshi Son and Simon Fuller leading the way, we know the right people are in place and the time is right for Miami to become a great Major League Soccer city.”

The Miami announcement was void of details and instead focused on exchanges of gratitude and congratulations, as well as tales of the long journey endured to get to this point.

MLS said in a release that the team name, logo, colors and expected start will be announced at a future time. The Miami Herald, however, is reporting the club is set to begin play in 2020 at a temporary site before opening in 2021 a 25,000-seat, $200 million privately-funded stadium to be built in Overtown.

The start date is the only piece of the Miami deal that could impact Cincinnati. Miami was already considered included in MLS plans to expand to 28 teams, and the league had long ago hoped the club would open play this year along with Los Angeles FC.

Now, LAFC is joining alone and creating an odd number of teams. That means MLS could be looking to push in a team that could be ready to play in 2019. Nashville was awarded a franchise at the end of December with expectations to open in 2020, and MLS delayed announcing a second team – among finalists Cincinnati, Detroit or Sacramento — until 2018.

Cincinnati, which has more than 15,000 season tickets sold for this season as a second-tier United Soccer League club, would be able to play in 2019 at Nippert until its stadium in Oakley, the West End or Newport is ready.

“Frankly, we wanted to name two of those before the end of the year, and we have a least three we can pick one from,” Garber said in a podcast with Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl on Jan. 25. “We want to wait to have those agreements finalized. I expect we will have an announcement in the next 30-60 days and it’s either Sacramento, Detroit or obviously Cincinnati. We are working hard to finalize and nobody should be remotely concerned there are any issues whatsoever.”

The hold-up in Cincinnati seems to be the stadium plans. FC Cincinnati pitched a site in Oakley as its preferred location for a $200 million privately-financed stadium – with public support for infrastructure – but recently took up some options on several lots in the West End, which club president and general manager Jeff Berding has said is a “Plan B” in case a traffic study finds a stadium would not work in Oakley.

“The whole point is let’s win the bid and figure out where is the best place to put a $200 million privately financed stadium to do the most good for our community,” he told WCPO’s Tanya O’Rourke on Sunday’s segment of “This Week in Cincinnati.”

Berding also said on the show he is hopeful an MLS announcement will be made this month.

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