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MLS names five candidiate cities for expansion

Miami and Atlanta are joined by San Antonio, Minneapolis and St. Louis on league's list of potential expansion.

Courtesy Major League Soccer

It will hardly come as a surprise given the recent media reports, but Miami and Atlanta were given even more credence as potential MLS expansion cities during Commissioner Don Garber's "State of the League" address on Tuesday. Not only were they among the cities listed on an apparently unapproved-by-Garber map of potential expansion cities, but the commissioner also specifically mentioned them as being close.

In the case of Miami, Garber said David Beckham was currently negotiating with potential partners that would potentially make them "the kind of ownership group that would rival the other ownership groups in the league." He did not suggest an announcement was imminent, though.

Atlanta's fortunes appear to be directly tied to Arthur Blank, who owns the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Although this has been known for quite some time, Garber went as far as to say that they could be the next expansion city to be announced.

"Atlanta is a changing market demographically," Garber said. "We need to be in the Southeast. We hope to get a situation finalized."

While calling a bunch of cities that were listed on a map "official" it was notable that the map displayed during the Google Hangout included just three other cities. San Antonio and Minneapolis have always been cities believed to be in the running, but St. Louis' inclusion was a bit more of a surprise. Also considering their overtures, Sacramento's exclusion also seemed telling.

San Antonio has already established itself as a strong soccer market, with the NASL's Scorpions being among the top drawing lower-division teams in each of the past two years. They also have a brand-new stadium that is easily expanded from its current capacity of about 8,500 to a more MLS-suitable number of around 18,000.

While Minnesota also has a relatively successful NASL team, their MLS ambitions seem to be tied to the Vikings, who like the Falcons are trying to build a new stadium that would potentially accommodate soccer.

That brings us to St. Louis, who doesn't have any of the obvious ties to existing infrastructure that the other cities possess. While the midwest city is often considered the birthplace of American soccer, no professional team has played there since Jeff Cooper's ill-fated AC St. Louis closed up shop in 2010. Maybe this was an attempt by Garber to get the ball rolling there.

The only other city to be mentioned by Garber -- but not listed on the map -- was Austin, Texas. Ironically, that's the city Phil Rawlins moved from in order to pursue his MLS dreams in Orlando. The Austin Aztex were reborn as a PDL team, but there doesn't seem to be an owner or a facility lying in wait.