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MLS expansion plan gathers pace

Over the next few years, America's MLS will expand to 30 teams from all over the country. This is great news for us casino sites who will see an uptick due to the increase in exposure.

The MLS started in 1996 and currently consists of 24 teams - 21 from the US and 3 from Canada (Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps). The League is split into 2 sections (East and West). Teams play 34 regular season games with the winners of each Conference play-off facing each other in the MLS Cup Final.

The MLS is big business in America and is growing in popularity in Europe with TV rights deals in many countries including some free-to-air games (on FreeSports) and paid TV matches (Sky Sports and Premier Sports) in the UK.

The first season in MLS started in 1996 with just 10 teams, 5 of which still exist today. The first winners of the MLS Cup was DC United who beat LA Galaxy 3-2 after extra time. Both of those clubs still exist today with Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution making up the group of founding fathers who still exist to this day.

Today's 24 teams will expand to 28 in the next 3 years with Nashville FC and David Beckham's Inter Miami joining the league in 2020. They will be joined by Austin FC in 2021 and newly awarded franchise St Louis in 2022. This will take the number of teams up to 28, with 2 spaces left to fill later on in the decade.

There are no clear favourites for which franchises will claim the last 2 slots and casinos online will be monitoring the situation closely.

Joining the MLS is an expensive business. St Louis paid a cool $200m for their franchise and that's in addition to the $250m set aside for a new stadium in the downtown area of the city. So just shy of $500m spent - and they haven't even signed any players yet!

It is expected that the last 2 expansion teams will have to pay even more to join the MLS, with the price tag rumoured to be upwards of $300m when the next franchisees are invited to apply sometime early next decade.

Whilst soccer is still gaining popularity in America, it's easy to see why so many cities are eager to land an MLS franchise - as well as the increased TV exposure, MLS is actually the third most popular spectator sport in the States, attracting an average crowd of over 20,000 fans. Only the NFL (National Football League) and MLB (Major League Baseball) average more.

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