It's been almost 25 years since the MLB last expanded. The most recent MLB expansion teams were the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays from 1998. That could change soon. The MLB has expressed interest in expanding to 32 teams. If and when that happens, which cities should make the cut?
The MLB is ready to expand for the first time in years, and Nashville has become a prime destination. There are already waves in motion to get an expansion team in Nashville.
A group of investors are fighting for the Nashville Stars, a Negro League team that disbanded in the 1950s, to become the MLB's next expansion team. The group includes former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, baseball executive Dave Stewart and baseball coach Don Mattingly as an advisor. The push for baseball in Nashville is ramping up. And no one would be surprised if the Nashville Stars get their wish.
Las Vegas will have an MLB and NBA team in no time. It's shocking that it's taken them this long to get a baseball team. They already have an NFL team and an NHL team. Both are great experiences for away fans visiting Sin City. And it's looking like you'll be able to watch your favorite baseball team in Vegas sooner rather than later.
If Vegas doesn't win an expansion team, an MLB team could relocate to the Sin City. The city's been linked to the A's for some time now.
An up-and-coming business hub, Charlotte has a lot of advantages other cities in this list lack. The city is loaded with potential sponsors and the teams that already play there (Hornets, Panthers) have loyal fanbases. Also, there is no need to build a new stadium. They could play at Bank of America Stadium, the Panther's home base. This is definitely one of the best options on this list.
Believe it or not, the Cleveland Guardians almost cracked a deal to play up to 30 games a year for 25 years in the New Orleans Superdome, per MLB.com. Unfortunately for the Big Easy, this deal never materialized. New Orleans is already home to the Saints, Pelicans and Mardi Gras. The Big Easy has a stadium readily available for this expansion team, the Superdome. Watching a good baseball game and then walking through the jazz-filled streets of the French Quarter sounds like a great night on the town.
The San Antonio Spurs are the largest city without an MLB team in America. Even though it's a small media market, the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA have found a way to make it work, winning five championships in the Alamo City. This potential team would have bitter interstate rivalries with the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers.
A baseball team in Portland would give all the hipsters who live there something trendy to cheer for. It's already home to the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA, who are seventh all-time in win percentage. So Portland is used to rooting for a winner. Why not give them an MLB team? They could have a bitter rivalry with the Seattle Mariners, their neighbor in the Pacific Northwest. When you factor in the city's wealth and fanbase, Portland has serious staying power.
It's the largest city in Mexico. It'll be getting its first taste of professional baseball in the 2023 season when the Houston Astros and the San Diego Padres play in the Mexico City Series. This is yet another reminder that the MLB is looking to expand its reach.
There's also a serious demand for baseball from Hispanic markets. For starters, about 28.5 percent of the MLB is Hispanic as of May 2022, Newsweek reported. Some of the best players in the league are Hispanic. Similarly, about 22 percent of Hispanics living in America consider themselves avid baseball fans, per Statista.
We don't know if Mexico City will ever win an expansion team. But if the Mexico City Series is any indication, the MLB will be back sooner rather than later.
As of right now, the highest level of baseball played in Japan is Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). However, the MLB considered playing the entire 2020 season in Japan because of COVID-19, per Bleacher Report.
Tokyo's population is 14 million as of 2021, per Statista. And the majors wouldn't have to do much to gain the interest of the people of Tokyo. Baseball is huge in Japan. Several Japanese prospects have succeeded in the MLB. Some of the most notable are Shohei Ohtani, Ichiro Suzuki, and Hideo Nomo. It seems like baseball is only going to get more popular in Japan. The MLB should capitalize on this.
Montreal was home to the Expos for nearly 35 years before they relocated and rebranded into the Washington Nationals. If the Expos were to ever make a comeback as an expansion team, it would give them the chance to redeem themselves. A vibrant sports town, Montreal is home to the Canadiens and the Alouettes. If this were to work out, it would be a great comeback by the Expos franchise.
Oklahoma City is already home to the Thunder of the NBA. If their games are any indication, this vibrant city has all the necessities to make a serious case for being awarded an expansion team. The OKC Thunder's rabid fanbase brings the energy at every home game. There's a lot of opportunity to build relationships with potential sponsors and fans.
MLB teams have played in Canada before, including the Toronto Blue Jays and the now-defunct Montreal Expos. This is the third-best option for a Canadian expansion team besides Montreal. While it's a hockey city, an MLB team could work out in Vancouver with good marketing and on-field play.
As mentioned earlier, there is a high demand for baseball among Hispanics, which is the largest demographic in Puerto Rico.
The capital of Puerto Rico, this city is filled with lots of culture and history. When you factor in the beach and the nightlife, this will become one of the most desirable locations for free agents. Also, several MLB players from Puerto Rico might want to sign with their hometown team.
If San Juan were given an expansion team, it would be the first Big Four sports team in history to play in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and a U.S. territory.
Memphis is the city of blues and the birthplace of rock and roll. Is an MLB team on the horizon for this historic city? They're already home to the Grizzlies of the NBA, and there is a slew of creative names for this potential franchise that have to do with music. However, the nearby market of Nashville has gained serious attention as a frontrunner to receive an expansion team. It's looking like Nashville will get a team before them. The people of Memphis can keep their fingers crossed.
Is Duval County due for a pro baseball team? With a population of 954,614, it's an interesting option. For starters, it's in a desirable location right by the beach. It wouldn't be tough to persuade free agents to sign with the team. Jacksonville is already home to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, a minor-league affiliate of the Miami Marlins. If they ever get a team, they should be named the Jumbo Shrimp. Fans across the country would root for them because of their hilarious name.
Seoul is the capital of South Korea. It's a modern city filled with potential. Baseball is one of the most popular sports in South Korea. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) is one of the most successful pro sports leagues in Asia. Giving South Korea a baseball team might be a risky swing for the MLB because it's so far, but it might be worth it in the end.
Virginia is the largest state without a Big Four sports team. They're practically dying for something to cheer for here. The lack of pro sports competition here makes it an intriguing option. It would be easy to fill seats because it would be the only pro sports team they have.
Buffalo has a rich baseball history. From the discovery of Hank Aaron, to the first cycle in big league history by Curry Foley, to letting the Blue Jays play at Sahlen Field during the COVID-19 pandemic... Buffalo is loaded with fun history. The Bills' fanbase is known to get rowdy. Now imagine how they'd react to a pennant. The only downside is that they would need to build their own stadium.
But it just so happens that the Buffalo Bills are building a new stadium. They've released the renderings to the public and their new stadium will be ready for use by the fall of 2026. When the time comes for baseball in Buffalo, they could use the Bills' stadium.
One of the largest potential markets out West, this city is already home to the Utah Jazz of the NBA. If awarded an MLB team, you could name the franchise after the state of Utah instead of Salt Lake City, just like the Jazz. The city has a passionate baseball fanbase and has rooted for the minor league Salt Lake Bees for some time. Only time will tell if they get an MLB team.
The Kings of the NBA have played in Sacramento since the 1980s. The city is nestled in the middle of California, the richest and most populated state in America. The city has proven it can host a pro sports team before. The idea of an MLB team in this city is promising.
Indianapolis almost won an expansion team back in 1985 when a group of investors fought for pro baseball in Indianapolis. It fell through. Indianapolis is a basketball city in a basketball state. It seems like the higher powers of the MLB aren't interested in testing baseball in this market anymore.
David J. Hunt is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. He ran cross country at Penn State, became a volunteer firefighter during COVID-19, and is a self taught journalist. He's a diehard Philly sports fan. When he isn't watching sports, he enjoys working out, fishing, and traveling. You can find more of his writing at The Chestnut Hill Local and The Temple News. You can follow him on Twitter at @dave_hunt44.