Anybody still doubting the growth of soccer in America may want to keep an eye on Major League Soccer.
On Thursday, MLS announced the league is planning an expansion to 30 teams "in the coming years." The announcement came after MLS owners made the decision official at Board of Governors meetings in Los Angeles.
While no new expansion cities have been confirmed, the commissioner's office has been authorized to explore the possibilities further with Sacramento and St. Louis.
MLS commissioner Don Garber released a statement addressing the news, per MLS:
"Professional soccer at all levels is thriving in the United States and Canada and we believe there are many markets that could support a successful MLS club. Expansion during the last 15 years has been enormously successful and a key driver behind the league's continued rise, and we are pleased that some of the top business and community leaders representing great markets in North America are aggressively pursuing MLS expansion clubs."
Since 1998, MLS has added 17 clubs with only two (Miami Fusion and Chivas USA) no longer functioning. The league's best case for continued expansion came in Atlanta United FC.
Atlanta United joined MLS in 2017 and won the MLS Cup last season.
FC Cincinnati is in its inaugural campaign, becoming the league's 24th club. The David Beckham-owned Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC are set to join MLS in 2020 with Austin FC following one year later.
Per MLS, the expectation is for the 28th and 29th expansion teams to be selected by the All-Star Game on July 31, and expansion fees for the two anticipated clubs have been set at $200 million. The expansion fee and timetable for the 30th club, the league added, have been deferred.
As for which cities will be gifted MLS clubs, St. Louis seems to be strong in the running. While residents voted down a proposal to build an MLS stadium in 2017, Garber visited St. Louis in March and said it "really checks off a lot of boxes" as a hosting city.