April 13 (UPI) -- Major League Soccer is considering Las Vegas, San Diego and Phoenix among alternate locations for an expansion team while Sacramento's quest for a franchise is on hold, commissioner Don Garber said.
Garber commented on the process for establishing a 30th team during a news conference Monday. MLS announced in February that a proposed Sacramento team, scheduled to start play in 2023, is on an indefinite hold.
"Right now, there are other markets that we're looking at," Garber told reporters. "I'm sure people are expecting that, whether that be Las Vegas or San Diego or whether it be Phoenix. We'll see how all those develop to see who can be our 30th team."
Garber did not say which city has the best chance of landing an MLS franchise. He also didn't discount Sacramento as a potential suitor if the team obtains a new investment group.
MLS announced in February that investor Ron Burkle would not "move forward with the acquisition" of the Sacramento team. The league said Burkle's withdrawal from the team was "based on issues with the project related to COVID-19."
Garber told reporters that "economic challenges" from COVID-19 and rising costs to build Sacramento's proposed stadium "created pressures on [Burkle] that ultimately had him decide to walk away."
"With Sacramento, I call the expansion project there, leading up to the season, a COVID casualty," Garber said.
MLS started in 1993 with 10 teams. The league continued to increase in size and grew to 20 teams in 2015. Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC played their first seasons as expansion teams in 2020.
Austin FC starts play this season. Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis also were awarded teams for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, respectively.
The Houston Dynamo FC and San Jose Earthquakes will play in the first game of the 2021 MLS season at 8 p.m. EDT Friday at BBVA Stadium in Houston.