Major League Soccer (MLS) will announce its 25th and 26th teams around the middle of next year, with each club set to compete by 2020, as it plans to eventually expand to a total of 28 franchises, commissioner Don Garber said on Thursday.
Expansion fees for teams 25 and 26 would be $150 million, a cost that is projected to rise in conjunction with the timeline for teams 27 and 28, both of which would be selected at a much later date.
"We look forward to reviewing expansion applications in the coming months and conducting formal meetings in 2017 with possible team owners," Garber said on a teleconference call after the MLS board had met in New York to discuss expansion plans.
According to Garber, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg have publicly expressed an interest in joining MLS as teams 25, 26, 27 and 28.
Twenty teams competed in the league during 2016, a number that will climb to 22 next season with the addition of Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC.
Los Angeles FC is scheduled to begin operations in 2018 while David Beckham and his business partners have been earmarked for a Miami franchise, team 24, though progress with that venture has been delayed, resulting in MLS setting them a undisclosed deadline.
Garber said the league remained committed to Miami, but sounded as though his patience was not infinite.
"I remain a big believer in the importance of Miami to extend MLS's reach to south of the border and to connect with a very diverse and culturally important city in our country," he said.
"We have a lot invested in this ... sometimes you have to take a step back before you move on.
"Everybody needs to understand, including David and his partners, the league and everybody else, that we've worked hard and it is time for us to reach a conclusion."
Beckham, who obtained the rights to buy into an MLS franchise at a discount as part of the deal he signed to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy, has been frustrated in attempts to secure a home for his team.
The former England captain and his business partners recently purchased a parcel of land in the Overton area of Miami.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Andrew Both)