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MLS names four cities as finalists for two expansion teams

MLS says Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, and Sacramento are the four finalists for two expansion team slots to be announced in December.

The four contenders will make presentations to the league's expansion committee in New York City on Dec. 6. The results of that meeting will then be discussed by the MLS Board of Governors on Dec. 14, with a final decision made by the end of the year. Two more cities will be named at a later date.

"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," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

"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."

MLS added that while these four bids are the only ones under consideration for the upcoming announcement, the other eight bid locations -- Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg -- still remain under consideration for the other two slots.

Sacramento MLS stadium rendering
Sacramento has completed a plan to build a stadium as it waits on MLS's expansion decisions.

Of the four finalists for the December announcement, Sacramento and Nashville appear to be the front-runners, though questions persist about Sacramento's investment group. While it includes local businessman Kevin Nagle and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, Meg Whitman, who reportedly joined the investment group earlier this year, wasn't included in Sacramento's list.

That said, Sacramento does have shovel-ready stadium plan and has even begun preparing the site for construction. Nashville also recently approved plans for a stadium and has deep-pocketed owners in John Ingram and the Wilf family that owns the Minnesota Vikings.

Just hours after MLS named Cincinnati a finalist, its City Council passed a deal for infrastructure costs for a privately financed stadium. Earlier in the day, Hamilton County commissioners voted to build a $15 million parking garage for the proposed stadium.

Together, the votes clear the way for Cincinnati to build a soccer-specific stadium if it is awarded an MLS team, though the location is still to be determined.

Detroit's decision to use the NFL's Ford Field as its stadium was not met with enthusiasm by the league, making it unlikely it will be selected this round. But with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and Detroit Pistons counterpart Tom Gores leading the investment group, Detroit still has a compelling enough story to tell to make the final four.

MLS also said that "discussions continue to progress" as it relates to David Beckham's effort to bring a team to Miami, which has been separate from the ongoing expansion bid process.

Beckham's group has acquired the land necessary for a stadium, but according to a source, a lawsuit from local landowner Bruce Matheson has pushed back final approval from MLS, and could delay the process by several months.

On Tuesday, Beckham's lead negotiator Tim Leiweke told the Toronto Sun that he was "not sure if [the deal] gets done," but hoped it would for Beckham's sake.

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

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