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Main League Soccer delays debut of three growth franchises resulting from corona virus

MLS Commissioner Don Garber [left] and Charlotte MLS owner David Tepper announce that Major League Soccer 2021 will come to Charlotte at an event in Charlotte, NC on Tuesday, December 17, 2019.

Nell Redmond | AP

Major League Soccer is back, but arriving cities will have to wait longer for new teams to arrive due to Covid-19.

MLS announced on Friday that it would delay the launch of three of its four expansion franchises: St. Louis, Sacramento, and Charlotte. The Charlotte team was recently bought by Panther's owner David Tepper.

Originally planned for 2021, Tepper's franchise will now debut in 2022. The St. Louis club and Sacramento Republic FC will play in the 2023 season, a year after both clubs are expected to join. The Austin FC franchise of the MLS will start in 2021, the league said.

The decisions were endorsed by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, who said in a statement that the delays would help clubs "offset the challenging year 2020" as Covid-19 was shut down throughout the sport.

"These teams will be well positioned for their debut and long-term success," he said in the statement. "It is important that every club takes the time necessary to start its first MLS season in the way that its fans and communities deserve."

In December, Tepper paid a record $ 325 million fee to own an MLS club. By buying into the MLS, new owners can also participate in Sum United Marketing, which oversees all commercial rights of the MLS.

SUM also controls corporate sponsorship, broadcast, digital, and consumer product rights and is responsible for promoting the Mexican Football Association's competitions and CONCACAF's Gold Cup games in the United States.

In 2019, both the Sacramento team and the St. Louis Club paid a $ 200 million entry fee to join MLS. The Sacramento team is led by billionaire Ron Burkle, and the St. Louis team is led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation.

Last week, Garber told CNBC's "Closing Bell" that MLS was about to approve private equity financing that "could be used to invest with our local teams."

Garber said the plan could help MLS recover from a potential $ 1 billion loss from Covid-19.

"It helped us a lot to have no matchday earnings," he said. "We will get through this, but there have certainly been challenges."

On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the MLS returned on July 8 with its "MLS is Back Tournament" after it had ceased operation due to the pandemic on March 12.

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