On the day that applications are due to be submitted by MLS expansion candidates, the Sacramento Republic upped the ante, adding Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman to the team's ownership group, a club source confirmed to ESPN FC.
The Sacramento Bee earlier reported the addition of Whitman, whose husband, Stanford professor Griff Harsh, is also joining the group. The ownership group is headed by managing partner Kevin Nagle, and includes San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, and the NBA's Sacramento Kings.
Whitman was the founder of online auction site eBay. She later made an unsuccessful foray into politics, losing the 2010 California gubernatorial race to Jerry Brown. She joined Hewlett-Packard a year later.
All told, 12 cities are vying for four expansion slots that would comprise teams 25 through 28. MLS announced in December that following a review of each prospective market, which will take place in the first six months of 2017, teams 25 and 26 will be selected during the second or third quarter of 2017.
The teams selected will be expected to begin play in 2020, and the expansion fee for those teams is $150 million. As a point of comparison, Toronto FC's expansion fee ahead of its inaugural season in 2007 was $10 million.
The timeline for teams 27 and 28 will be determined at a later date, as will the expansion fee for those teams.
At present, there are 22 teams in the league, including Minnesota United and Atlanta United, which will start play this season. Los Angeles FC will start play in 2018, while Miami, despite slow progress towards rounding out its ownership group, is expected to be the 24th team.
At this time, ownership groups from 12 markets have expressed interest in acquiring an MLS expansion franchise. In addition to Sacramento they are: Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Phoenix, and Indianapolis.
Last week, MLS invited a group from Phoenix to apply for expansion, while the NASL's Indy Eleven confirmed its plans to bid to Sports Illustrated on Monday. They join the other 10 interested markets that MLS had confirmed in December.
Out of those 12, Sacramento and St. Louis appear to be the favorites to snag the first two spots, but more will be known in the coming months.
The evaluation of the candidates will be led by the league's expansion committee that consists of five owners; the New England Revolution's Jonathan Kraft, the Chicago Fire's Andrew Hauptman, Columbus Crew SC's Anthony Precourt, Orlando City's Phil Rawlins, and the Philadelphia Union's Jay Sugarman.