MLB expansion possibilities: Which cities would make sense?

Nashville? Charlotte? Mexico City? Here are some of the sensible cities for potential MLB expansion

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

First pitch for the 2024 Major League Baseball season is less than a month away, but the league could be setting its sights on something bigger in the near future.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has addressed the possibility of MLB expansion in recent years. He told reporters at the 2023 All-Star Game that the league would explore expansion to 32 teams once the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays resolved their stadium situations. The A’s are off to Las Vegas after MLB owners unanimously approved their move in November and the Rays announced a new stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., that could open as soon as 2028.

Manfred said he hopes to have a process for expansion “in place” by the time he leaves his role in 2029. It would mark the league’s first expansion since the Arizona Diamondbacks and then-Devil Rays joined in 1998.

Which cities could be lined up when MLB’s next expansion rolls around? Let’s examine some possibilities.

Biggest U.S. cities without an MLB team

Ten of the 25 most-populated cities in the U.S. do not have an MLB team (numbers per World Population Review):

  • 7. San Antonio, Texas, 1,510,687
  • 10. Jacksonville, Fla., 1,000,135
  • 12. Austin, Texas, 984,655
  • 13. San Jose, Calif., 950,767
  • 14. Charlotte, N.C., 928,154
  • 15. Columbus, Ohio, 917,811
  • 16. Indianapolis, Ind., 877,023
  • 20. Oklahoma City, Okla., 707,678
  • 21. Nashville, Tenn., 694,598
  • 23. El Paso, Texas, 675,418

San Antonio and Austin are just 80 miles apart and could conceivably make a run at an MLB team together. Texas already has two baseball teams in the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, the last two World Series winners. California is the only state with more than three MLB teams, so MLB would potentially be expecting Texans to drop their allegiance to either the Rangers or Astros in favor of a new team rather than create a fanbase in an area without current ties.

Jacksonville, San Jose, Columbus and El Paso face a similar predicament since they are located in states with multiple MLB teams. 

Cities with multiple sports teams but no MLB franchise

There are five cities with two existing big-four sports teams (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL) but no MLB team: Charlotte, Nashville, Indianapolis, Buffalo and New Orleans. Nashville, Charlotte and Buffalo all have additional big-four teams elsewhere in their state, such as the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and the nine New York City teams.

Nashville is nearly equidistant to three MLB cities: Atlanta (215 miles), Cincinnati (243 miles) and St. Louis (253 miles). Charlotte is more than 200 miles away from its closest city, Atlanta. Both Nashville and Charlotte have existing groups – Music City Baseball and the Charlotte MLB Project – in place that are committed to bringing MLB to their cities.

Indianapolis and Buffalo are much closer to MLB cities. Indy is just 100 miles out from Cincinnati and Buffalo is only 62 miles away from Toronto. New Orleans, meanwhile, is more than 300 miles away from Houston. 

International possibilities

MLB has expanded its international presence in recent years, and there are some North American cities that could be enticing expansion candidates.

It’s been 19 years since the Expos left Montreal to become the Washington Nationals. The Canadian city was part of an unprecedented plan in 2022 in which the Rays would be split between Montreal and Tampa Bay, but MLB scrapped the plan.

Looking south, Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world and has a clear interest in baseball. It hosted a two-game set between the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres last April that offered a glimpse at what MLB in Mexico had to offer.

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