Adding Years to The Delay, MLS Pushes The Kick Off Of New Expansion teams
On July 17th, Major League Soccer announced another change based upon the impact of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on soccer in America.
A new timeline has been set forth for the inaugural seasons of three of the four expansion clubs, delaying the start of two of the teams until 2023.
- Charlotte to begin play in 2022
- St. Louis and Sacramento will debut in 2023
According to the MLS, the new timeline is the result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the commencement of business operations and stadium development of these clubs and will give the clubs an appropriate timeline for a successful launch. Obviously, launching a new sports club during a pandemic when fans can not buy tickets in most states to attend games is a highly difficult and financially dangerous effort.
Austin FC, Major League Soccer’s 27th franchise, remains on schedule to begin competition in 2021 as planned. Charlotte, originally scheduled to begin MLS play next season, will now debut in 2022. St. Louis and Sacramento will begin to play in 2023 instead of 2022.
The decision was made by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, in conjunction with the league’s Expansion Committee.
Austin FC, which unveiled the club’s brand in August 2018 and was formally announced in January 2019 — well ahead of the other expansion teams — remains on schedule to debut in 2021. Austin has already announced their first player and rosters for their youth academy program.
The Austin FC Stadium project is underway and is a soccer-specific stadium under construction in the North Burnet section of North Austin, Texas. Fans can watch the progress of this build on this LIVE VIDEO camera.
The club had made significant progress on its sporting, business, and stadium objectives before the onset of the pandemic.
“We have always taken a thoughtful and strategic approach to our expansion planning and have delivered successful launches for every new club,” said MLS Commissioner Garber. “It is important for each club to take the necessary time to launch their inaugural MLS seasons the way their fans and communities deserve.”
“With the extra year to make up for what has been a challenging 2020, these teams will be well-positioned for their debuts and for long-term success.”Don Garber, MLS Commissioner
Charlotte, St. Louis, and Sacramento were each awarded MLS expansion teams in the second half of 2019.
- Owned by David Tepper, Charlotte’s MLS team was announced in December.
- Sacramento Republic FC, owned by Ron Burkle, Matt Alvarez and Kevin Nagle, were granted an expansion team in October.
- Led by Carolyn Kindle Betz and the first female majority ownership in league history, St. Louis was awarded an MLS team in August.