Garber defends pace of MLS expansion reveals
ORLANDO - MLS commissioner Don Garber told ESPN FC "it's not remotely alarming" to him that that expansion deals for the cities of St. Louis and Sacramento haven't been finalized.
Following an MLS Board of Governors meeting back in April, the league authorized Garber to advance into exclusive discussions with St. Louis and Sacramento with an eye towards those two cities being the 28th and 29th teams. Garber said at the time that he hoped to have the deals finalized by Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game.
But citing the capital outlay needed to fund an MLS expansion team -- which Garber said was between $550 million and $650 million -- the commissioner confirmed that the deals have not yet been completed.
"We had come out of a board meeting with the authority to try to finalize deals in both of those markets," Garber told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. "We have not yet done that. That's not concerning to me. It just means that the investment stake required to come into MLS, that process of finalizing deals is getting more and more complicated.
"In both of those cases, you're looking at between $550 million and $650 million in investment. When you're making an investment like that, they take a while to close. That's the process that we're going through now, and it's not remotely alarming to me or anybody else."
Garber said that the expansion fee for teams 28 and 29 remains at $200 million. He added that representatives from both the St. Louis and Sacramento ownership groups would attend Wednesday's All-Star Game. A league spokesperson confirmed representatives from Charlotte, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Raleigh and San Diego would also be in attendance.
"There will be no shortage of opportunities for us to determine the right timetable to bring the 30th team into MLS," Garber said.
Las Vegas has two ownership groups vying to obtain an expansion franchise, one led by Bill Foley, owner of the NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights. Another group is headed by Baupost CEO Seth Klarman, who is also a minority investor in Fenway Sports Group, owners of reigning UEFA Champions League holders Liverpool.
Garber indicated that he was in Las Vegas as recently as two weeks ago, where he met with both ownership groups and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, while also touring a stadium site.
"We have been [looking at] Las Vegas for many, many years, and now there seems to be a bit more energy," Garber said.