Buying an MLS Franchise Just Got a Lot More Expensive

  • League says next expansion fee could top $200 million
  • MLS in talks with a number of cities, including Detroit

Aspiring sports team owners will have to pony up if they want a piece of the American soccer boom.

Once seen as one of the last affordable investments in pro sports, Major League Soccer is preparing to nearly double expansion fees to about $200 million, MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in an interview.

The 20-team league has already committed to new franchises in Atlanta, which begins play next season; Los Angeles, which joins in 2018; and Minnesota, whose start date hasn’t been determined. It is also negotiating with David Beckham’s ownership group about putting a team in Miami.

In the most recent round of expansion in 2014, the owners of the L.A. Football Club paid $110 million to put a second franchise in Los Angeles. MLS teams are worth an average $157 million, with three clubs -- the Seattle Sounders, L.A. Galaxy and Houston Dynamo -- valued at more than $200 million, according to Forbes’s 2015 rankings.

With a target of 28 teams, league officials are talking with a number of prospective cities, including Sacramento, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Diego, St. Louis, San Antonio, Charlotte and Oklahoma City.

Abbott said league officials discussed expansion during last week’s All-Star Break, though no timetable for applications was set.

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