Auburn Hills — Detroit is another step closer to getting a Major League Soccer franchise.
The MLS announced Wednesday morning that Detroit is one of four finalists to receive a franchise when the league expands to two new cities. The other finalists are Cincinnati, Nashville and Sacramento.
The Detroit contingent, which includes Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Pistons owner Tom Gores, will make a final formal presentation to MLS commissioner Don Garber and the expansion committee in New York on Dec. 6.
The prospective soccer franchise would play games at Ford Field, after the Ford family offered the venue as an alternate location to house the team, looking to bolster Detroit’s bid.
“We are excited to be to be named as one of the finalists chosen to meet with Commissioner Garber and the Major League Soccer expansion committee in December and look forward to sharing our bid proposal that would bring MLS soccer to Detroit,” Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, who is leading the Detroit bid, said in a statement. “Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores, together with the Ford family, create a powerhouse group that is unprecedented in professional sports and secures a perfect stadium location in the heart of Detroit’s central business and sports and entertainment districts.
“Sports franchises have a unique ability to unite and inspire people. Bringing a team downtown will further energize Detroit’s urban core and impact the community both on and off the field.”
Gilbert and Gores had pitched a plan to build a new soccer-specific stadium near the Wayne County jail site on Gratiot, but switched to Ford Field as the preferred option.
Adding the Ford family as a partner seems to add some punch to Detroit’s potential to be one of the two teams granted a new franchise.
“The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” Garber said in a written statement. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”
The MLS Board of Governors, with representatives from each current team, will meet on Dec. 14 to discuss the final presentations and a decision on the two expansion teams will be made before the end of the year.
The most recent round of expansion included 12 potential cities; the other eight cities that submitted bids could be considered for future expansion, with the MLS looking to add two cities in coming years.
The MLS currently has 22 teams, with Los Angeles being added in 2018 and a potential new franchise in Miami. With two new teams in this round and another two franchises afterwards, the total number of teams would rise to 28.