Major League Soccer to expand to 24 teams by 2020 season, says Commissioner Don Garber

Expected expansion would make MLS the largest top-level professional soccer league in the world

MLS Commissioner Don Garber at Cheers to the Rapids on March 6, 2013

Photo Credit: 
Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Think 20 was the magic number? Think bigger.

Major League Soccer plans to add another four teams by the 2020 season, Commissioner Don Garber announced at halftime during the broadcast of Wednesday night’s AT&T All-Star Game at Sporting Park. 

The league had previously held to the idea that a 20-team league was the sweet spot for the foreseeable future. MLS has added 10 clubs since the beginning of the 2005 season, and the recent addition of New York City FC – who begin play in 2015 – will bring the league to 20.

“These expansion clubs have brought new ideas that have contributed to our strategy for growing the league and the addition of new markets has expanded our geographic reach while increasing our fan base,” Garber said in a league press release.

Wednesday’s news gives immediate hope to several markets looking to break into the league, such as Orlando, Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit and Sacramento, to name a few – several of whom had representatives presenting to the MLS Board of Governors here on Wednesday afternoon.

MLS has engaged in exploratory discussions with multiple markets and potential owners regarding future expansion, according to the statement. The league will unveil a process during the coming months that will detail the procedure and timing for future expansion.

"The strength, passion and vision of the MLS ownership group is the foundation behind the success of our league,” Garber continued. “We look forward to adding new partners with the same commitment to the sport and love of the game.

"As MLS enters a period of accelerated growth, the addition of new teams will allow us to expand our geographic coverage, grow our fan base and help us achieve our vision of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022.”

With 24 teams, MLS would become the largest top-level professional soccer league in the world.

In a press release, MLS stated the following:

The process to determine a future MLS expansion market will be selected on the basis of multiple criteria.  Factors taken into consideration include:

  • Committed and engaged ownership;
  • A comprehensive stadium plan;
  • Demonstrated fan support for professional soccer in the market;
  • Support from sponsors, television partners and other constituents;
  • Geographic location;
  • A strategic business plan for the launch and successful operation of the club.