Atlanta, Minneapolis emerge as potential MLS expansion favorites

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Don Garber also mentions Sacramento, San Diego and San Antonio, but seemingly as afterthoughts.

Tucked into the end of MLS Commissioner Don Garber's conference call explaining the league's decision to buy Chivas USA were some potentially significant revelations about future MLS expansion. It's not that there were any new names added to the list of prospective cities -- Atlanta, Minneapolis, "Northern California", aka Sacramento, San Diego and San Antonio -- but Garber did seem to indicate that some favorites had begun to emerge, at least as it pertains to those final two spots that would give MLS 24 teams.

Garber first mentioned Atlanta -- even using the word "bullish" -- where Falcons owner Arthur Blank is heading group. Perhaps the best thing the bid has going for it is that Blank is planning to build a $1.2 billion stadium that could be reconfigured for soccer. They've also got someone, Blank, apparently willing to write a big check. We're almost at the point where this seems like an inevitability.

Where this gets a bit more interesting is with the next city Garber mentioned by name: Minneapolis. While this is hardly the first time that the Twin Cities have been connected to MLS, it's never been quite this strongly before.

"That opportunity is one that we're excited about as we believe we need more teams in the Midwest," Garber said. "I think if Minneapolis as a market can continue to show the support that they've had for the NASL club [Minnesota United] and if they continue to make progress on a number of different stadium opportunities, there's a real opportunity there."

What's particularly interesting about this is that Minnesota United was referenced, but not the Vikings. Previously, it had been reported that Zygi Wilf was interested in acquiring a MLS team with the idea of having them play in a stadium primarily built for the Minnesota Vikings. If it's actually the United owners who are driving interest -- and there have been reports that the Twins could be a partner in the deal -- that probably means it would be with the intention of playing in a far more MLS-appropriate soccer stadium.

While Wilf has the stadium and plenty of money, bringing ownerships like United's -- primarily focused on soccer -- into the fold is the exact thing MLS should be looking for when vetting new additions.

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