An expansion team is a new team in a sports league, usually from a city that has not hosted a team in that league before, formed with the intention of satisfying the demand for a local team from a population in a new area. Sporting leagues also hope that the expansion of their competition will grow the popularity of the sport generally. The term is most commonly used in reference to the North American major professional sports leagues but is applied to sports leagues in other countries with a closed franchise system of league membership. The term comes from the expansion of the sport into new areas. That sometimes results in the payment of an expansion fee to the league by the new team and an expansion draft to populate the new roster.
In North America, expansion often takes place in response to population growth and geographic shifts of population. Such demographic change results in financial opportunities to engage with the new market as consumers of sports demand local teams to support. Major League Baseball (MLB) was limited to 16 teams located north and east of St. Louis, Missouri for the first half of the 20th century. During that time, the United States population doubled and expanded to the south and west. Rival interests explored the possibility of forming a rival league in the untapped markets. To forestall that possibility, one of the measures that MLB took was to expand by four teams in 1961 and 1962. Over the past four decades, MLB expanded further, to its current 30-team membership. In the context of MLB, the term "expansion team" is also used to refer to any of the 14 teams enfranchised in the second half of the 20th century.
Leagues that are new and/or financially struggling may also admit large numbers of expansion teams so that the existing franchises can pocket more revenue from expansion fees. Indoor American football leagues are notorious for doing so: the leagues can double the number of teams and have many new teams fail within a year or two. Major League Soccer, after spending most of its first decade of existence with relatively stable membership and struggling finances, adopted a policy of continuous expansion beginning in 2005, a policy that the league as of 2017 has no intention of stopping.
When an expansion team begins play, it is generally stocked with less talented free agents, inexperienced players, and veterans nearing retirement. Additionally, prospective owners may face expensive fees to the league as well as high startup costs such as stadiums and facilities. The team is also at a disadvantage in that it has not been together as a team as long as its opponents and thus lacks the cohesiveness other teams have built over years. As a result, most expansion teams are known for their poor play during their first few seasons, which can be exacerbated by the fact that leagues often expand by two or four teams in one season for scheduling reasons, so every team can have an opponent on a given day or week. This is not the case in the National Basketball Association (NBA) or National Hockey League (NHL), generally have one or more off days between games. In those cases, expansion teams must compete with their expansion rivals for available talent.
Expansion teams are not usually doomed to mediocrity forever, as most leagues have policies which promote parity, such as drafts and salary caps, which give some expansion teams the opportunity to win championships only a few years after their first season. In Major League Baseball (MLB) The Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series in their fourth season and the Florida Marlins won the 1997 World Series in their fifth season. In the NBA, The Milwaukee Bucks won the 1971 NBA Finals in their third year of existence, greatly helped by drafting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1969 draft and acquiring Oscar Robertson from the Cincinnati Royals before the 1970-71 season began. In the NHL, the Florida Panthers made the Stanley Cup Finals in their third season even though, like MLB, the league then had no salary cap. The NHL's Vegas Golden Knights quickly emerged as one of the NHL's best teams in its first season, thanks to a generous expansion draft, eventually advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The National Football League (NFL), despite being considered the most generous in its revenue sharing and the strictest with its salary cap, has had far more difficulty bringing expansion teams up to par with their more established brethren: since the AFL–NFL merger, the soonest that any of the six expansion teams that have been added after the merger would win a Super Bowl was 27 seasons (the time it took for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the team's 1976 establishment to win Super Bowl XXXVII in the 2002 season); none of the four teams to hold expansion drafts since 1995[note 1] have ever won that contest, with only one, the Carolina Panthers (who reached the game in their 9th] and 21st seasons of existence). In 1996, the Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars each made it to their respective conference championship games in their second season in the league.
Most teams are considered as an expansion team usually in their first season and sometimes in their second season, but especially for purists, Major League Baseball teams can be considered "expansion teams" indefinitely. A team that moves to another location and/or changes its name is not an expansion team. If it moves, it is known as a relocated team, and if the name changes, the team is known as a renamed team. In response to a negative attitude that some fans have towards relocated teams, there have recently been instances where relocating clubs change their identity completely; name, colors and mascot; but because the roster is the same and the league does not expand as a result, they are not regarded as expansion teams. One exception is the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL): when the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, an agreement was reached for which the trademark and history of the pre-1996 Cleveland Browns remained in that city and was claimed by the post-1999 Browns when the league placed a new franchise there, even though the personnel and roster had moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens.Another exception is the New Orleans Pelicans, who were previously known as the New Orleans Hornets after relocating to New Orleans from Charlotte, N.C., in 2002. After the 2012 sale of the Hornets, new owner Tom Benson changed the name, colors and mascot from Hornets to Pelicans. The Charlotte Hornets segment of the franchise's history was sold to the then-Charlotte Bobcats (themselves formerly considered a 2004 expansion team) and the 2002 New Orleans Hornets are now officially regarded as an expansion team.
Cities and regions with large populations that lack a team are generally regarded to be the best candidates for new teams. In rugby league, the United Kingdom-based Rugby Football League's Super League has added teams from France and Wales to cover a great demographic spread. The operator of Super League, England's Rugby Football League, has also added teams to the lower levels of its league pyramid, specifically the Championship and League 1, from both France and Wales, and most recently Canada. In rugby union, the competition originally known as the Celtic League and now as Pro14, which began with sides only from the Celtic nations of Ireland, Scotland and Wales, has added teams from Italy and more recently South Africa. The U.S.-based NFL has been laying groundwork for a potential franchise in the UK, tentatively slated to launch in 2022.
Two teams from the AFL of the 1960s were expansion teams in that league. Both joined the AFL after the merger with the NFL was agreed to, but before it was finalized.
Only extant members of the AFL are listed.
AFL Women's, launched in 2017, is operated by the Australian Football League, with all teams fielded by AFL clubs. The first expansion occurred prior to the 2019 season, with a second expansion set for the 2020 season.
The 2014 National Premier Soccer League season was the 102nd season of FIFA-sanctioned soccer in the United States, and the 12th season of the NPSL. The season began in May 2014. RVA Football Club were the defending champions, having won their first NPSL title the previous season.Atlanta United FC
Atlanta United FC, commonly known as Atlanta United, is an American professional soccer club based in Atlanta, Georgia that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the league's Eastern Conference. It is the most recent winner of the MLS Cup.
Founded in 2014, Atlanta United began play as an MLS expansion team in 2017, as the twenty-second team in the league. It is the first MLS franchise to be based in Atlanta, and the club plays home games at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which they share with the city's National Football League (NFL) franchise, the Atlanta Falcons. Both are owned by Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot. The club also owns Atlanta United 2, a reserve team that competes in the USL Championship (USLC).
Gerardo "Tata" Martino was appointed as the club's first head coach, and guided Atlanta to their first playoff appearance in the team's debut season, before securing the team's first trophy in just their second season by winning MLS Cup 2018.
Based on 2018 regular season attendance, Atlanta has one of the largest fanbases in MLS, and they have set several league records for highest single-match and average attendance. In 2018, Forbes estimated the franchise was the most valuable in the league, worth more than $300 million.Blackwater Elite
Blackwater Elite is a professional basketball team owned by Ever Bilena Cosmetics, Inc. that is playing in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) beginning in the 2014–2015 season. The franchise began as one of the founding teams in the PBA Developmental League. It transferred to the PBA after being accepted as an expansion team. The team is named after the Ever Bilena's brand of men's fragrances.Boston Blazers
For the article on the former MILL team, see Boston Blazers (1992–97).The Boston Blazers were an indoor lacrosse team in the National Lacrosse League (NLL). The Blazers were based in Boston, Massachusetts, and began play in the 2009 NLL season. They are also an AAU basketball team based out of Massachusetts.
The team was owned by Tim Armstrong, the former President of Advertising and Commerce for Google. who is currently CEO of AOL. NLL veteran Tom Ryan was the team's head coach until being dismissed on December 23, 2010. Ryan was replaced on December 28, 2010 by former Toronto Rock assistant coach Matt Sawyer. On April 7, 2008, the Blazers named veteran New England marketing executive Doug Reffue to the position of team president.
The team was not associated with the former Boston Blazers, who played in the MILL (predecessor to the NLL) from 1992 to 1997. However, the name was chosen "in part due to the popularity and nostalgia associated with the former Boston Blazers franchise".On August 30, 2011, the team announced that it would be temporarily suspend operations for the 2012 season as they sought a new home facility for the 2013 season. However the team has yet to resume operations by 2018.Chicago Shamrox
The Chicago Shamrox were a professional lacrosse team that played in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) in the 2007 and 2008 NLL seasons. Home matches were played at the Sears Centre in northwest suburban Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The team's ownership group was headed by Kevin Loughery Jr., the son of former NBA head coach Kevin Loughery. The new franchise was announced on February 16, 2006, and the name "Shamrox" was chosen in May 2006.During their inaugural season in 2007, the Shamrox finished the season 6-10 and tied for fourth place in the NLL East Division with the Toronto Rock and Philadelphia Wings. But, due to their record inside the division, the Shamrox lost the playoff tiebreaker to the Rock and missed the playoffs.On December 12, 2008, the Chicago Shamrox franchise closed their doors indefinitely. For the weeks and months before, owner Kevin Loughery Jr. had been trying to find a new ownership group. When the new group wasn't found, the team ceased operations 15 days before the opening night against the Rochester Knighthawks The team suspended operations until further notice.Dilated Peoples
Dilated Peoples is an American hip hop group from Los Angeles, California. They achieved notability in the underground hip hop community, although they have had little mainstream success in the US, with the exception of the song "This Way", a 2004 collaboration with Kanye West, Xzibit, Chali 2na and John Legend appearing in the music video. They reached the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart with two tracks, "This Way" and "Worst Comes to Worst." Their members include DJ Babu (producer/DJ), Evidence (MC/producer) and Rakaa (MC). The group also received a publicity spike after their songs were featured in the 2003 video games Need for Speed: Underground and NBA Street Vol. 2.Expansion draft
An expansion draft, in professional sports, occurs when a sports league decides to create one or more new expansion teams or franchises. This occurs mainly in North American sports. One of the ways of stocking the new team or teams is an expansion draft. Although how each league conducts them varies, and they vary from occasion to occasion, the system is usually something similar to the following:
Each existing team is told it can "protect" a certain number of its existing contracted players by furnishing their names to the league office on or before a certain date. The expansion team(s) then are allowed to select players not on the protected lists in a manner somewhat similar to an entry draft. There are generally a maximum number of players that can be selected from any one team, at least without the team losing the player receiving something in compensation such as a future entry draft pick.
Teams subject to losing players usually tend to put most if not all of the players they truly need to stay competitive on the protected list. This means that the expansion franchise is usually left to choose among players who are old, injury prone, failing to develop as the teams had intended, or perhaps so highly compensated that a team wishes to remove them from the payroll. For this reason, expansion teams are often noncompetitive in their early years in a league, although the advent of the free agent system has modified this somewhat. Marc-André Fleury, who won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is a notable exception of a star player in their prime being left exposed in an expansion draft, being made available for the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft after Fleury was made expendable due to the rise of Matt Murray at goaltender. The rules of the draft can be tweaked by the league to make the expansion team more competitive if that is the business objective of the league's expansion.Most teams seem to try largely to make a team which will serve until it can begin to develop its own talent, although occasionally players discarded by their old teams benefit from the change in environment and become stars, either again or for the first time.
A similar process occurs when an existing franchise is disbanded and the players contracted to it become available to the remaining teams; this process is referred to as a dispersal draft.Expansion of Major League Soccer
Expansion of Major League Soccer has occurred several times since the league began play in 1996. Major League Soccer was established as the top level of professional soccer in the United States in 1993 with 10 teams and began play in 1996. It has expanded several times since 1998 into new markets across the United States and, since 2006, into Canada.
MLS is currently at 24 teams, with plans to expand to 30 teams in the early 2020s. In 2019, FC Cincinnati became the 24th team. The league plans to expand to 27 teams with the addition of Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC in 2020 and Austin FC in 2021, with further plans to expand to 28 teams by 2022 and 30 teams at a later date.
Expanding and establishing a larger national reach is seen as essential to securing television rights fees needed to reach MLS's stated goal of becoming one of the top leagues in the world by 2022.In 2013, New York City FC agreed to pay a record $100 million expansion fee for the right to join MLS in 2015. This record was surpassed by the ownership groups of FC Cincinnati and a new Nashville team, which each paid $150 million to join MLS (FC Cincinnati in 2019 and Nashville in 2020). The same amount was paid as an effective entrance fee by a group that bought Columbus Crew SC in 2018, which led to that team's previous operator receiving a new team in Austin, Texas that will likely join MLS in 2021. MLS has also announced the ownership groups of the 28th and 29th teams will each pay a $200 million entrance fee.
Major League Soccer considers several criteria when determining where to award expansion franchises:
owners that are committed to MLS and have the financial wherewithal to invest in a team,
a stadium or approved plans for a stadium (preferably a soccer-specific stadium) that allows the team to control revenue streams such as parking and concessions,
the size of the market of the metropolitan area, and
an established local fan base.Fukushima Firebonds
The Fukushima Firebonds (福島ファイヤーボンズ (Fukushima Faiyābonzu)) is a professional basketball team based in Kōriyama, Fukushima that plays in the bj league, the top-tier professional basketball league of Japan. The team entered the league as an expansion team in the 2014–15 season.In July 2015, it was announced that the team will compete in the second division of the B.League, a new league in Japan set to begin play in 2016–17.Inter Miami CF
Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami, referred to as Inter Miami CF or Inter Miami, is a professional soccer expansion team to be based in Miami, Florida. The team is due to begin play in Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2020, with its permanent home stadium opening a season or two later pending final decisions about financing and location.The ownership group, formed in 2013 as Miami Beckham United, now works through Miami Freedom Park LLC. The group is led by David Beckham, his business partner Simon Fuller, and Miami-based Bolivian businessman Marcelo Claure, while Masayoshi Son and brothers Jorge and Jose Mas were added to the ownership group in 2017. The effort originated in a contract Beckham signed with MLS in 2007; he joined LA Galaxy and negotiated an option to own an expansion team at a discounted franchise fee.MLS officially awarded the group an expansion team on January 29, 2018. The award represented part of a larger MLS expansion that would increase its number of teams to 26 by 2020 and 30 after that. Since Beckham's original announcement of his intention to place a team in Miami in 2014, Orlando City, Los Angeles FC, Minnesota United, Atlanta United, and FC Cincinnati have all begun MLS play.
A November 2018 referendum saw roughly 60% of city voters approving a measure to convert a city-owned golf course near the international airport into Inter Miami CF's new stadium, Miami Freedom Park.List of AHL seasons
The American Hockey League is a minor professional ice hockey league in the United States and Canada. It serves as the top developmental league for the National Hockey League. The league played its first season in 1936 as the International-American Hockey League, a "circuit of mutual convenience" formed when the Northeast-based Canadian-American Hockey League and the Midwest-based International Hockey League agreed to play an interlocking schedule. After two seasons, the leagues formally merged into a unified league under the I-AHL name. After the 1939–40 season, the league became known as the American Hockey League.
The 1938–39 season—the I-AHL's first as a fully merged league—saw the two-time defending Eastern Amateur Hockey League champion Hershey Bears added as an eighth member club to replace the Buffalo Bisons that had been forced to fold 11 games into the 1936-37 season when the roof of its arena collapsed in a snowstorm. The Bears remain the oldest continuously operating hockey team in any league in North America outside of the NHL. The Rochester Americans, who joined as an expansion team for the 1956–57 season, are the second oldest.Los Angeles FC
Los Angeles Football Club, commonly referred to as LAFC, is an American professional soccer franchise based in Los Angeles, California, that competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the Western Conference. The team plays their home games at the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park. The team shares the Los Angeles area market with the LA Galaxy, and the two clubs compete in a rivalry dubbed El Tráfico.National Arena League
The National Arena League (NAL) is a professional indoor football league that began play in 2017. It consists of six teams based in the East Coast of the United States.Orlando City SC
Orlando City Soccer Club is an American professional soccer club in Orlando, Florida, that competes as a member of the Eastern Conference in Major League Soccer (MLS). Orlando City SC began play in 2015 as an expansion team and is the first MLS franchise in the state since Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny folded following the 2001 season. The team plays at Orlando City Stadium in downtown Orlando.Seattle NHL team
The Seattle NHL team is a professional ice hockey expansion team that will be based in Seattle, Washington and will begin play in the 2021–22 National Hockey League (NHL) season. The team will compete in the NHL as a member club of the league's Western Conference Pacific Division. The team is owned by Seattle Hockey Partners and will play their home games at the New Arena at Seattle Center.
On December 4, 2018, the NHL approved a proposal by Seattle Hockey Partners—an ownership group led by David Bonderman, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Tod Leiweke—to grant an expansion franchise to the city of Seattle, Washington.
It will be the first professional hockey team to play in Seattle since the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League played their last game in 1975. The team will play at a redeveloped version of Seattle's KeyArena, which had previously been optimized for basketball to suit the Seattle SuperSonics.Seattle Sounders FC
Seattle Sounders FC is an American professional soccer club based in Seattle, Washington. The Sounders compete as a member of the Western Conference of Major League Soccer (MLS). The club was established on November 13, 2007, and began play in 2009 as an MLS expansion team. The Sounders are a phoenix club, carrying the same name as the original franchise that competed in the North American Soccer League from 1974 to 1983.
The club's majority owner is Adrian Hanauer, and its minority owners are Joe Roth, the estate of Paul Allen and Drew Carey. Former USL Sounders coach and assistant coach Brian Schmetzer took over as head coach in July 2016 after the departure of Sigi Schmid. The Sounders play their home league matches at CenturyLink Field, with a reduced capacity of 37,722 seats for most matches. Along with several organized groups, a 53-member marching band called 'Sound Wave' supports the club at each home match. Seattle competes with rival MLS clubs Portland and Vancouver for the Cascadia Cup.
The Sounders played their inaugural match on March 19, 2009, winning 3–0 over the New York Red Bulls. Seattle has been among the league's most successful teams, winning the U.S. Open Cup four times, the Supporters' Shield in 2014, and the MLS Cup in 2016. The team has qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in each of its ten seasons and competed in the CONCACAF Champions League five times, advancing to the semifinal round once. The team set a new MLS record for average attendance in each of its first five seasons. The Sounders are ranked as one of the most valuable franchises in North America.
The team's players have included joint top goalscorers Clint Dempsey and Fredy Montero, as well as long-time captain Osvaldo Alonso, and current captain Nicolás Lodeiro. The Sounders also operate a players' academy and lower division teams that have produced homegrown players, including forward Jordan Morris and current Newcastle United F.C. defender DeAndre Yedlin.United Premier Soccer League
The United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) is a full season, American adult professional soccer league that was founded in Santa Ana in Southern California, with teams in regionalized conferences throughout the United States. The league was founded in 2011 by Santa Ana Winds FC club owner Leonel López as a regional league for teams in Greater Los Angeles, but expanded to include teams from 32 states as of the 2019 UPSL season.
Two seasons are played each year, with regional play culminating in a playoff system that crowns a single national champion each season. The league features internal promotion and relegation with up to three levels in some regions; only clubs in the top tier Pro Premier are eligible to compete for the national championship.
The league is a United States Adult Soccer Association National League, within the larger United States soccer league system.Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights are a professional ice hockey team based in the Las Vegas metropolitan area that competes in the National Hockey League (NHL). They are members of the Pacific Division of the league's Western Conference, and began play in the 2017–18 NHL season. The team is owned by Black Knight Sports & Entertainment, a consortium led by Bill Foley and the Maloof family. The team plays its home games at T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada.Western Conference (NBA)
The Western Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of two conferences that makes up the association, the other being the Eastern Conference. Like the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference is made up of 15 teams, organized in three divisions.
The divisional alignment was adopted at the start of the 2004–05 season, when the now Charlotte Hornets began playing as the NBA's 30th franchise. This necessitated the move of the New Orleans Pelicans from the Eastern Conference's Central Division to the newly created Southwest Division of the Western Conference.