CINCINNATI -- Major League Soccer is expected to announce one more expansion club this week, deciding among the remaining finalists: Cincinnati, Detroit and Sacramento. This after declaring a major announcement in Nashville on Wednesday, when that city officially became the MLS's first choice.
Those holding out hope Cincinnati's bid is accepted are riffling through every possible outcome -- ways FC Cincinnati could get in and reasons they might be left out.
Here are seven scenarios that could play out as the club's fate hangs in the balance:
1. FC Cincinnati gets in next just on its own merit.
Cincinnati seemed to be the most MLS-ready based on its solid Carl Lindner-backed ownership group and stunning attendance, averaging 21,199 fans in a second-tier league that averages less than 4,000. Those crowds would have ranked eighth in MLS this year.
The city is the smallest television market among the original 12 applicants, but Cincinnati was still among the highest rating markets during the MLS playoffs this year, and there are nine Fortune 500 companies here and sponsorship opportunities galore. The stadium plans seemed hurried after elections but came together at the deadline, and the small gap in infrastructure funding likely won't be a problem for a group already willing to put in $200 million into financing the entire stadium.
2. FC Cincinnati slides in for 2019.
These two expansion spots were supposed to be for entry in 2020, but Miami originally was supposed to be team No. 24, going in with or just after Los Angeles FC this spring. That leaves the conferences unbalanced at 23, and Miami won't be ready until at least 2020.
So, MLS could decide FC Cincinnati is ready now because of its proven attendance at Nippert Stadium and roll the Orange and Blue in a year early, allowing the club to stay at the University of Cincinnati while the club's soccer-specific stadium is being built.
3. Cincinnati and Sacramento both get in and leapfrog Miami altogether.
MLS could decide that Miami won't be ready by 2020 and go on and move Sacramento and Cincinnati in and push Miami back to one of the final two spots that are supposed to be decided next year or later to complete the expansion process.
Sacramento already has broken ground for pre-construction on its stadium and has averaged around 11,500 fans a game the past two seasons in the USL.
4. FC Cincinnati gets in because Columbus will move to Austin, and MLS needs balance in East and West.
Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt is looking to move his team to Austin, and MLS commissioner Don Garber didn't sound optimistic the club would stay put in his recent state of the league address.
MLS may decide there is no hope for the Crew in Ohio and to move Cincinnati in to replace their spot in the Eastern Conference.
5. Sacramento gets in because it has been ready longest.
Sacramento has been waiting the longest and brings the most concrete stadium plan.
Last December, the Republic unveiled its plans for a new $200 million privately financed 19,000-22,000-seat MLS stadium on a plot of land in the 224-acre Railyards district just north of downtown, where a massive redevelopment project had already been approved by the city council. The club and city signed a term sheet in 2015, and pre-construction began this summer.
Garber called Sacramento a matter of "when, not if," almost two years ago.
6. FC Cincinnati gets in because Sacramento is already locked in.
MLS could decide to push Cincinnati through, based on the fact Sacramento is already good to go on its stadium. Allowing FC Cincinnati in this round could help move things along for the Queen City's plans, and Sacramento will be there in the waiting for the next round.
The Republic already is seen as the bridesmaid kept waiting.
7. Detroit shocks everyone and gets in.
MLS did not seem to like Detroit's sudden change in plans to use the NFL Lions' stadium as its home facility, but the league would love to have that ownership group and its deep pockets. The lead investors are NBA owners Tom Gores (Detroit Pistons) and Dan Gilbert (Cleveland Cavaliers), who are worth a combined $9 billion. Detroit also recently brought in the billionaire Ford Family, which owns the Lions. There is potential for some huge roster signings with that kind of money.