"We have a plan here that we believe in," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said during a news conference. "A plan that we believe will take the sport to a higher level."
It's an aggressive plan that has seen the 20-year-old league double in size since 2004 despite the fact it says it is still losing more than $100 million a year.
Expansion teams began play in Orlando and New York City this season, giving MLS 20 franchises. And teams in Atlanta and Los Angeles will be begin play in 2017, a season ahead of Minneapolis, leaving Garber one short of the 24 teams he wanted by 2020.
Minnesota United FC, with a broad-based coalition of local investors led by Bill McGuire, beat out a deep-pocketed group headed by Minnesota Viking owners Mark and Zygi Wilf. McGuire, the former CEO of UnitedHealth Group, will operate the team alongside
As MLS has expanded geographically, adding teams in Canada, the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest since 2009, it has also managed to attract high-powered ownership groups. The Atlanta franchise will be operated by
Despite the fact that MLS has never turned a profit, new investors say they are drawn to the league by its rapid growth. Not only has MLS doubled its number of franchises in 11 years but average attendance topped 19,000 for the first time in 2014 -- more than either the NBA or NHL averaged. Last spring the league signed a record eight-year $720-million broadcast deal and Forbes Mexico ranks three MLS team -- the
Minnesota United, founded in 2010 and currently playing in the second-tier North American Soccer League, plans to build a soccer-specific outdoor stadium in downtown Minneapolis, near the Twins'
Garber will now turn his attention to stalled attempts to place a David Beckham-owned franchise in Miami. Those plans have long been discussed but the Beckham group has been unsuccessful in winning support for a downtown stadium in that city, something Garber considers a requirement for awarding franchise rights.