Then, by the end of this year, the owners will award franchises to two additional cities from a list that includes not just Nashville, Cincinnati and Sacramento but also Raleigh, Charlotte, Tampa, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, San Antonio, Phoenix and San Diego. And next year, the owners will pick two more from the group that remains.
Critics of M.L.S. contend that the league’s chase for new markets — and ever-rising expansion fees, now at $150 million per club — have diluted the quality of the product on the field, since every time a team is added to the league, another expansion draft of existing players must be held. And even as M.L.S. boasts of record attendance, its television ratings regularly lag behind those of games streamed in from Mexico and Europe.
“They do enough to get the stadium full, but can they transcend that?” asked Steve Gans, who helps broker team sales and is generally bullish on the future of M.L.S. “When fans watch two Premier league games in the morning, will they also watch an M.L.S. game in the afternoon?”