New York (AFP) - Major League Soccer unveiled 12 applicants on Tuesday for four expansion clubs with the 24-team league expecting to name at least two new squads by the end of 2017.
The North American league, whose expansion candidates are all from US cities, will reach 22 active teams when Atlanta United and Minnesota United debut in March with Los Angeles FC to take the field in 2018.
Former English star David Beckham's group is set to make Miami the 24th MLS team despite stadium location issues, with the league saying in a statement only that "MLS is making progress with plans for an expansion team in Miami."
MLS hopefuls are ownership groups in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; Sacramento and San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida.
The MLS timetable would be to select cities for two new teams by year's end with plans for them to take the field by 2020. The two other teams would be selected on a timetable to be decided later this year.
"We'll take a look at that with the MLS ownership expansion committee over the next couple of months," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "The ultimate goal is to have a decision on, more than likely, our next two teams by the end of 2017.
Among those involved in specific bids are Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA Cleveland Cavaliers, and Tom Gores, owner of the NBA Detroit Pistons, for Detroit; Jed York, owner of the NFL San Francisco 49ers, and Kevin Nagle, a part owner of the NBA Sacramento Kings, for Sacramento; the NBA's San Antonio Spurs for San Antonio and Peter Seidler, manager partner of Major League Baseball's San Diego Padres, for San Diego.
Applicants submitted documents outlining potential owners, details on construction of a stadium for the team and financial projections for corporate and public support.
MLS kicked off in 1996 with 10 US teams and now features three Canadian sides as well as clubs in most major US markets.
"That's just an incredible statement about the growth of the sport of soccer in the United States and Canada and really a statement about how far MLS has come over the last 20-plus years," Garber said.