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Next MLS Expansion City: Las Vegas & San Diego Leading the Race

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com

Dan Kilbridge  | 5 mins

Next MLS Expansion City: Las Vegas & San Diego Leading the Race

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We can now safely say those who bet against the success of Major League Soccer when it launched in 1996 were holding losing tickets. 

The upstart league was hoping to maintain and capitalize on momentum built from the 1994 World Cup, hosted in the U.S., in which the Americans made it out of the Group Stage and into the Round of 16 for the first time since 1950. 

It was a relatively modest operation back then, with just 10 teams and sparse attendance following the buzz of the inaugural season. 

The league has since expanded nearly three-fold, with especially warm welcomes in recent expansion markets like Atlanta, Nashville, and Charlotte. Joining for the first time in 2022, Charlotte FC set an MLS attendance record with 74,479 fans for its first home match at Bank of America Stadium in the spring of 2022. 

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It broke the record previously set at the 2018 MLS Cup in Atlanta, where 73,019 watched Atlanta United take on the Portland Timbers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

That points to a healthy appetite for pro soccer in the US across the country, with room for more expansion in the coming years. St. Louis City SC is already set to join the mix in 2023, leaving MLS with 29 teams – and more on the way. 

MLS has made clear it intends to expand by the end of 2023, making it an even 30 teams, at least, ahead of the 2024 season. And there’s no shortage of candidates as the league continues to make its mark across the country. 

Next MLS Expansion City Odds

CityOddsImplied Probability
Las Vegas-12054.55%
San Diego+18035.71%

Odds are projected and do not reflect odds that may be available at legal betting sites.. They are for entertainment purposes only.

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MLS commissioner Don Garber has said the league is serious about expanding and adding a 30th team in the very near future. He confirmed as much last week while discussing its future ahead of the 2023 season, and tipped his hand regarding the current frontrunners. 

“We do need more teams. The 30th team will come at some point soon,” Garber said. “Hopefully we’d like to get that announced by the end of the year. We say we’re going to stop at 30 but the other major leagues are larger than that. 

“I never say never in Major League Soccer. There are many other markets that are opportunities for us. I think San Diego and Las Vegas are the most likely opportunity for 30.”

It was a telling response, one that seemingly hinted at the possibility of expanding to 32 teams in the coming years. They have several options in strong markets, but it’s clear that Las Vegas and San Diego are the two frontrunners at the moment. 

We set Las Vegas as the favorite to land the next bid, with -120 odds for a 54.55% implied probability. That’s been the hottest city in the country as far as expansion goes recently, with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights already a smash success and the Raiders relocating from California. 

Plans are well underway for an MLB franchise in the coming years, and in terms of infrastructure few cities can match the hosting capabilities of Vegas. 

There’s already a blueprint with the Las Vegas Lights FC, which launched in 2018 as part of the second-tier USL, and the bid is coming from Premier League Aston Villa owners, Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris. 

Other than the need for an indoor stadium, of which many short-term accommodations could be made for next year, there shouldn’t be any roadblocks here. 

The consensus in this soccer betting market is that Las Vegas will get an MLS team soon. The question is, are they next in line?

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San Diego is also making a serious run in a bid backed by billionaire businessman Mohamed Mansour. MLS was already seriously considering San Diego for expansion back in 2017-18 before the bid fell through, but it’s another thriving market with a history of supporting the National Women’s Soccer League's San Diego Wave – the team drew 32,000 fans in September, 2022 to break the league’s single-game attendance record. 

American soccer legend Landon Donovan also helped found San Diego Loyal SC in 2019, which certainly doesn’t hurt. 

Tampa, Sacramento, Phoenix and Detroit have generated some buzz as well, and Garber noted those locales as potential expansion destinations last month. 

Plans are well underway in those markets as well and Tampa and Sacramento are especially hopeful they’ll get a franchise in the coming years. 

But 29 teams is a bad number for a league to sit on, and they need another city now. Las Vegas and San Diego make the most sense for a lot of reasons, and we believe they’ll find No. 30 in Sin City with all the money and fan support necessary to make it happen soon.  

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About the Author

Dan Kilbridge for Bookies.com
Dan Kilbridge
Handicapper Dan Kilbridge writes about college football, MLB and other sports for Bookies.com after spending three years covering Tiger Woods’ comeback and the PGA for Golfweek.