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Speaking about the MLS expansion process, the league commissioner confirmed that the proposed Miami franchise, led by FC Barcelona, would begin play in 2010.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- MLS commissioner Don Garber confirmed on Wednesday what has long been rumored about the Miami expansion team, which is affiliated with Catalan giants Barcelona: They will begin play in 2010, if their bid is accepted.

"Barcelona and Miami, in partnership with [Bolivian-American tech magnate] Marcelo Claure, are focused on 2010," he said today at a press event here. "If Miami gets a franchise, they’ll be starting in the 2010 season."

The Barcelona/Miami bid was submitted in December as part of the league's planned expansion for 2011. Other cities in the running include Portland, St. Louis, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, and Atlanta. Montreal and Atlanta have since dropped their bids. The proposed Miami franchise, according to Garber, would be the only one to receive the special dispensation to move up its debut by a year, to 2010.

An announcement on the two winning bids is due next month, around the time with the 2009 MLS season kicks off on March 19.

The favorites currently are Miami, Vancouver, and Portland. But the commissioner spoke about the prospects of the other two remaining hopefuls, St. Louis and Ottawa.

"St. Louis is making good progress," he said. "I have some meetings with their ownership group later today and a potential partner they’ve brought in on the corporate side. They continue to be very active, and as I’ve said before, we’d love to have a team in St. Louis."

The chances for Ottawa, which would be the second smallest metro area in MLS (after Salt Lake City), rest solely on the ownership group's ability to deliver on the promise of a soccer-specific stadium.

"We can’t go to Ottawa or any other city unless we have the appropriate venue," Garber said. "The venue Eugene Melnyk is proposing, they’ve got a really good shot for a team. But without a stadium, they’d never have a shot at all.

Greg Lalas, Goal.com

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