Indy Eleven not named an MLS expansion finalist

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NEW YORK (AP, WTHR) — Indianapolis missed the cut for a pair of Major League Soccer expansion spots Wednesday.

Sacramento, California, is considered a front-runner along with Nashville, Tennessee for the teams, which the league intends to award next month. Each winner will pay a $150 million expansion fee.

Nashville is believed to have been pushed over the top by the Metro Nashville City Council voting on Nov. 7 to approve $225 million in public money 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.

Cincinnati and Detroit also remain in contention, but without firm plans for new stadiums, they are viewed as long shots.

Presentations to the league's expansion committee are scheduled for Dec. 6, and MLS owners will discuss expansion when they meet eight days later in New York.

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.

Indy Eleven issued a statement after the announcement came down, saying, "We’re not surprised by the announcement. We’ve always understood that while the criteria MLS weights for considering expansion includes the market, ownership group and stadium plans, the primary driver is the level of planning and implementation of stadium efforts via a private/public partnership. Indy Eleven remains committed to advancing the efforts of a public/private partnership required for the stadium to become a reality and raising awareness about the positive force a professional soccer team can bring to our community. We are planning on being a finalist for the next round of MLS expansion opportunities."

Major League Soccer says, despite not being selected for these two expansion slots, Indianapolis and the other seven cities are still in the running for the next two.

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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