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MLS markets seeing interest in expansion NWSL clubs

MLS owners in Atlanta, Austin, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City and Toronto and non-MLS owners in Columbus and the S.F. Bay Area have the "strongest bids for NWSL expansion," according to sources cited by soccer journalist Grant Wahl. The last two would "likely use the MLS stadiums in Columbus and San Jose." NWSL expansion is "most likely set" for '24, though a source said that it happening in '23 is a "possibility." A source said Gotham FC needs to become "viable first" before the NWSL would add a second team in the N.Y. area. Wahl wrote one big issue is the "amount of money being paid to play in MLS stadiums" (GRANTWAHL.SUBSTACK.com, 5/13). THE ATHLETIC's Meg Linehan wrote all of these options will be "familiar to any NWSL fan with firm opinions about where the league should head next," though there are "still some other candidates to consider." Of those candidates, Salt Lake City and the new MLS ownership out in Utah "has a leg up." There is a "direct in for the return of Utah Royals FC as part of the sale of Utah Soccer Holdings." More importantly, there is a "set price," which could "prove to be a massive discount" for Real Salt Lake co-Owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith (along with Arctos Sports Partners) as NWSL valuations rise. Atlanta "has to be considered a front-runner as well," though the team has "stayed vague in terms of public promises on this front." NWSL sources have "mentioned both Nashville and Phoenix in a list of potential markets with ownership groups that have expressed at least some level of interest." Nashville’s brand new stadium would "certainly be an edge if either the MLS ownership group or a potential independent group went through the bidding process" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/16).

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