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FC Cincinnati named finalist in bid for Major League Soccer team

FC Cincinnati playing Ottawa Fury FC at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.{ }(WKRC/Tom Uhlman)

CINCINNATI (WKRC/AP) - Cincinnati has been named one of four finalists in the bid for a Major League Soccer team.

It's one of four cities vying for a spot in the pro league along with Nashville, Detroit and Sacramento. City leaders are set to meet with the MLS Expansion Committee on Dec. 6.

That list was pared down from 12 ownership groups across the country.

The MLS statement reads:

“The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” said Commissioner Don Garber. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”
Following the presentations on Dec. 6, a meeting of MLS’ Board of Governors on Dec. 14 in New York City will include additional discussions on expansion with ownership representatives from every MLS club. The next two MLS expansion teams are scheduled to be announced before the end of the year. Two more expansion teams are scheduled to be selected at a later date.

Sacramento is considered a front-runner along with Nashville for the teams. Each winner will pay a $150 million expansion fee.

Eight areas were cut from the list Wednesday but remain in contention for later expansion teams: Charlotte, North Carolina; Indianapolis; Phoenix; Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina; St. Louis; San Antonio; San Diego; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Metro Nashville City Council on Nov. 7 approved $225 million in revenue bonds to construct a 27,500-seat soccer stadium and an additional $50 million in bonds for renovations and improvements around the site at the current fairgrounds. Nashville's group includes John Ingram, the chairman of Ingram Industries Inc., and the Wilf family, owner of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.

Sacramento's group includes Kevin Nagle, a minority owner of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, and Jed York, CEO of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. The group said in July it was starting pre-construction activity for a 19,621-seat downtown stadium.

MLS has 22 teams this season and Los Angeles FC is to start play in March at a new stadium under construction near the Coliseum. Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy star David Beckham was tentatively awarded a Miami team in 2014, but that is contingent on a stadium site he has thus far failed to secure.

The league in 2015 announced plans to expand to 28 teams and said last December that teams 25 and 26 will start play by 2020.

Cincinnati's group includes Carl H. Lindner III, co-CEO of American Financial Group and owner of FC Cincinnati in the second-tier United Soccer League. The Cincinnati City Council on Monday approved a plan for the city to invest up to $36 million in infrastructure such as roads around a privately funded stadium. A day earlier, the community council in the Oakley neighborhood where the stadium would be built voted against the proposal.

Detroit's group is seen as having the poorest chance after announcing Nov. 1 it would use Ford Field, home of the NFL's Lions. The group includes Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and chairman of Quicken Loans Inc., and Tom Gores, owner of the NBA's Detroit Pistons and chairman of Platinum Equity.

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