CINCINNATI -- Major League Soccer has whittled down the original dozen contenders for its two-team expansion to four finalists, and Cincinnati has made the cut, according to Sports Illustrated.
FC Cincinnati officials will join those from Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento on Dec. 6 in New York City to plead their case before MLS leaders meet on Dec. 14 to make a final decision.
Sports Illustrated's Brian Straus ranked the Queen City's team as third most likely "by a hair" to earn a place among the MLS in 2020, citing the fact that Cincinnati would be the league's smallest media market and the lingering uncertainty around the club's proposed stadium plan.
FC Cincinnati expects approval from city council on Wednesday on an agreement that would put Cincinnati on the hook for $37 million in infrastructure developments around the current most likely location in Oakley. However, two other options are still floating around.
"The most attractive arguably is the West End neighborhood, which is adjacent to downtown Cincinnati and the hip Over-The-Rhine area," Straus writes for Sports Illustrated, noting the club doesn't control the necessary pieces of land there to build. "Then there’s Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River. The views would be one-of-a-kind and the infrastructure financing is in place, but FCC hasn't finalized a development agreement for the site."
Straus argues that the as-of-yet-unfinalized stadium location could be a good problem, as it gives the MLS fallback options. However, he also theorizes about the other side of the coin.
"The options also could work against Cincinnati if MLS finds the permutations less attractive than the stadium certainty in Sacramento and Nashville," Straus writes.
Sports Illustrated ranked Nashville and Sacramento as more likely to nab the two expansion slots and Detroit as a distant fourth.
“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,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a news release. “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.”
This process has taken all year, as ownership groups from 12 markets submitted formal bids for an MLS expansion team in January. The other eight markets were Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.
While only Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are being considered for the next two expansion teams, all remaining markets are under consideration for an additional two expansion clubs that will be announced at a later date.
In December 2015, MLS announced plans to expand the league to a total of 28 teams. Los Angeles Football Club begins play in 2018, becoming the league’s 23rd team, and discussions continue to progress for an MLS expansion team in Miami.