Detroit must wait until new year to learn MLS fate

Detroit News staff and wires

New York — Major League Soccer is postponing a decision on its next expansion team until next year.

A day after selecting Nashville, Tenn., as one of its next two additions, MLS said Thursday it still is considering which market to add from among Detroit, Cincinnati, and Sacramento, Calif.

“All three submitted impressive bids which the league will take additional time to review before announcing a final decision in the new year,” a statement from MLS read.

MLS announced last December that it would select its 25th and 26th teams during the second or third quarter of 2017 and they would start play by 2020. Twelve areas submitted bids the following month, when MLS said it would announce the two selected by the end of the year.

Contenders were pared to four finalists on Nov. 29, and the groups made presentations to the league’s expansion committee in New YorkDec. 6.

Detroit’s bid is managed by Arn Tellem, the vice chairman of the Pistons, on behalf of three prospective owners: Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers; Tom Gores, the founder and chief executive of Platinum Equity and owner of the Pistons; and Martha Firestone Ford, the majority owner and chairman of the Lions.

More: Detroit makes 'best pitch' for MLS expansion team

More:Detroit’s MLS bid banking on strength of ownership, market

The addition of Ford to the bid brought Ford Field into the mix as the potential expansion team’s home field. While MLS prefers to have soccer-specific stadiums as sites for its teams, Ford Field also gives Detroit a ready-made stadium, something other bidding cities don’t have.

Tellem released a statement Thursday.

“We are pleased that Commissioner Garber and the MLS expansion committee continue to view Detroit as a top location for soccer,” Tellem said in the statement. “Our group made a first-class bid presentation that demonstrated the strength of the Detroit market, highlighted Ford Field’s location and attributes as a dynamic MLS stadium and emphasized the city’s continued revival and resurgence. We look forward to maintaining our open lines of communication with MLS officials as the expansion process continues.”

The decision by MLS to delay the announcement of the next expansion club comes as Sacramento’s bid seems to be hitting some roadblocks. There are reports that Sacramento is short on investors, now that Silicon Valley executive Meg Whitman has decided to withdraw from the group. The fee for an MLS expansion club is $150 million.

That could mean Detroit or Cincinnati are now the favorites to land the next club, or that MLS is delaying its decision to allow Sacramento to round up funds.

Los Angeles FC, the league’s 23rd team, starts play next season. The 24th team, provisionally awarded to Miami and David Beckham in 2014, still has not finalized a stadium location and remains on hold.

MLS commissioner Don Garber said Wednesday it was not clear when Nashville will start. The league prefers to have an even number of teams, allowing all to be in action on weekends.