MLS invites Phoenix group to make expansion application

Phoenix is the latest city to enter the race for an MLS expansion team, joining a list of 10 other markets after the league invited the Arizona capital's USL club to submit an application.

Owners of Phoenix Rising FC met with MLS officials in New York last week to discuss the possibility of moving to the top flight.

MLS said in December that 10 other cities were competing for four expansion slots. Applications are due by Jan. 31 for the first two teams, which will be announced later this year and start play by 2020.

The club was founded in 2014 as Arizona United SC and was rebranded in November after being sold in August to a group led by businessman Berke Bakay. With the sale came plans for a new soccer-specific stadium, a key factor in MLS's decisions.

"MLS has considered Phoenix to be an attractive soccer market for many years," MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement. "In fact, we visited Phoenix and toured potential stadium sites 13 years ago, including the site recently secured by Phoenix Rising FC within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in south Scottsdale."

The other 10 markets hoping to join MLS are Charlotte, Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville, Raleigh/Durham, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

"Being invited to submit an MLS expansion team application is an honor," Bakay said. "It has always been our intention to bring Division 1 professional soccer to Arizona. But, we will need every soccer fan, business and community leader to quickly come together and support our application effort in order to achieve this incredible goal for our state."

St. Louis' hopes to land a team grabbed a lifeline on Thursday when the city Ways and Means Committee approved a revised proposal to build a stadium with public funds.

Also on Thursday, The Tennessean reported that Nashville mayor Megan Barry will propose building a new stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds, with formal plans to be announced on Monday.