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Here’s where we stand on the NFL returning to Los Angeles

The clock is winding down on the likelihood of the NFL’s return to Los Angeles by the 2016 season, and the situation is as murky as ever.

St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is proposing a stadium in Inglewood, and the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are backing a competing plan in Carson.

The NFL held special committee meetings in New York last week to discuss L.A., and the full ownership will convene in Dallas in two weeks for the league’s regular one-day December meetings, where L.A. will be a focus.

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If a decision on the nation’s second-largest market isn’t made within the next three months, yet another postponement is a possibility.

Here we ask and answer some questions on where the situation stands:

Is the NFL going to be back in Los Angeles next season?

There’s a good possibility, but no one can say for sure — not any of the owners and not Commissioner Roger Goodell. We’re closer to its being a reality than at any time since the late 1990s, when L.A. and Houston were in the running for the 32nd franchise, but anyone who says they absolutely know what’s going to happen is lying either to you or themselves.

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Would this be decided by a vote of the owners?

Any relocation requires a three-quarters majority approval from the 32 NFL owners. But in this case, the league would manage the outcome instead of pitting the two projects against each other for an up-or-down vote. The NFL doesn’t want one or two teams to emerge as losers and get sent back to markets they tried to leave. That means there would be lots of negotiations (and probably a grand bargain) before anything comes to a vote.

Could a team move to L.A. without league approval?

It’s possible, and happened before with Al Davis and the Raiders. But that is unlikely in this instance. The NFL could deny that team any financial help in building the stadium, withhold the right to host Super Bowls, and take other measures to make it an unsavory option.

When would a vote happen?

People involved in the process are all over the map on that. The league had hoped to schedule a vote in January, but owners say that might be overly optimistic. Goodell has said the likely window is in January or February. But the NFL does not want to upstage the Super Bowl — especially a Super Bowl in the Bay Area, with a vote critical to the future of a Bay Area team. A logical time could be between the Feb. 7 Super Bowl and the scouting combine, which starts Feb. 23.

Could there be a vote at the annual owners meetings in March?

Anything could happen, but that would be problematic because it’s so late. That’s squarely in the heart of the season-ticket selling window, and people don’t buy tickets for a team in limbo. If there were no vote by the end of February, it’s likely that a return to L.A. would be postponed for another year.

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Do either the Rams or the Chargers/Raiders currently have the requisite 24 votes for approval?

That’s highly unlikely. There are strong indications that each side has the necessary nine votes to block the other. However, the league hasn’t taken a straw poll.

So who has the edge?

Depends on whom you ask. We know that Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is squarely behind Carson (he’s said so), and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is an Inglewood man (he was even born there). In between the Jerrys, it’s shades of gray. The L.A. committee, the six-owner group of which Richardson is a member, will probably endorse the Carson plan. But nobody knows how influential that committee’s recommendation will be with the rest of the owners, or with Goodell.

Which proposal is further along?

Inglewood. The design for that stadium is complete, and planners say the site preparation work to start construction is nearly finished. The Carson stadium is still being designed.

Is there a consensus in the league that L.A. is a two-team market?

No. That is still a lively debate among the owners, many of whom question the risk of putting two franchises into a market that lost two 20 years ago.

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What was the vibe from NFL owners and executives after hearing the pitches from the three home markets last week?

Several owners and executives not connected with the Rams find the St. Louis plan lacking and were unconvinced last week by backers of that proposal. Some have pointed to the better deal the Minnesota Vikings got — with the public footing half the cost of a new stadium — from a bigger market.

Some owners perked up at San Diego’s pitch, but there remains significant skepticism about whether that deal could come to fruition. The Chargers and others are convinced that it cannot, that even if the city were to get a public-funding initiative on the ballot, the measure would lose. Nobody in the NFL is going to force owner Dean Spanos to stay in that market.

Oakland didn’t deliver a viable proposal.

With three teams and two stadium proposals, there are all sorts of scenarios and combinations floating out there. Is there anything we can say will not happen?

There will not be two new stadiums, or three teams moving to L.A. And, barring a change in ownership, the Raiders are not going to move here on their own.

What about the Rams and Chargers sharing a stadium in Inglewood?

That’s a popular scenario inside and outside NFL circles. There could be an effort in the coming weeks to get Kroenke and Spanos in a room together to discuss the possibilities. But remember, the Chargers have a deal with the Raiders, so those two would first have to decide to go their separate ways (and so far there’s no indication they’re bound for a breakup.) Among the other complications, Spanos wouldn’t be interested in a landlord-tenant relationship with Kroenke, and doesn’t like the Inglewood site or plan.

The Chargers and Raiders announced last week that Disney Chairman Bob Iger, an entertainment visionary, will head their project if Carson is green-lighted by the league. Might that tip the scales in their favor?

It’s hard to say how that will influence owners, or whether Iger will have a role in winning the bid. Again, his official role is contingent on the bid’s approval. The league does love Disney, but it remains to be seen what kind of influence Iger will have, especially this late in the process.

What will the relocation fee be for the team or teams that move?

The league has yet to determine that. Add it to the long list of questions to be answered in a process that never seems to end.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

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