COVID-19: MLS delays start for 3 expansion clubs

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced the Major League Soccer (MLS) to delay the inaugural seasons of three expansion teams by a year.

The football governing body in the USA on Friday announced that Charlotte, Sacramento Republic FC and St. Louis will, therefore, have to wait for another year because of the impact of COVID-19.

While Austin FC will still make its league debut in 2021, Charlotte will follow suit in 2022, with Sacramento and St. Louis will begin to play a year later.

After MLS commissioner Don Garber in conjunction with the league’s expansion committee made the decision, the three teams agreed that waiting was the best course of action.


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Major League Soccer Announces New Expansion Timeline

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 Teams will be positioned for their debuts – MLS

Garber in a press statement the league body has always taken a thoughtful and strategic approach in its expansion planning and have delivered successful launches for every new club.

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Cuurent MLS clubs

“It is important for each club to take the necessary time to launch their inaugural MLS seasons the way their fans and communities deserve. With the extra year to make up for what has been a challenging 2020, these teams will be well-positioned for their debuts and for long-term success.”

Garber had last month explained how the pandemic has impacted the MLS business significantly. He further said that the league and its teams would sustain a $1 billion revenue hit in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte team is set to reveal its name and brand on July 22. But it has sustained delays related to renovations at Bank of America Stadium, which is also home to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

Reacting to the development, Tom Glick, the president of Tepper Sports and Entertainment, Charlotte’s owners said there had been a lot of discussion with MLS,  and they remained confident it is in the best interest of the club and their supporters to take additional time to ensure a successful inaugural season.

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“When we were awarded the team in December [of 2019], we knew we were on an extremely tight timeline to begin play in 2021 but we were ready to meet that challenge. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted several of our essential initiatives. We have made huge progress in the last few months, but having additional time to build is important.”

On the other hand, Sacramento and St. Louis are already in the process of constructing new stadiums. Sacramento is already on preparation work on a stadium at the Downtown Railyards site.

According to the team in a statement, the delay will allow it to “address pandemic-driven challenges in the global construction economy.”

“With an additional year, we can better adjust for the impact of the pandemic on our community and identify how we can best serve the neighbors and friends that have supported our club on its rise to Major League Soccer,” said Republic FC investor Matt Alvarez.

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The stadium project is still progressing at St. Louis’ in line with guidelines from health and government officials to effectively and safely manage the effort the team. The team also in a statement, confirmed the development.

According to  source with knowledge of the situation, St. Louis had been affected by the pandemic in other aspects of the business, including the hiring of staff.

“We’ve been working closely with the league and collectively agreed that the adjusted timeline was the best decision to position our club for a historic launch and long-term success,” said Carolyn Kindle Betz, MLS4TheLou CEO.

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