NEW YORK – Four cities are in the running to join Major League Soccer, but the city of San Antonio was not included.
MLS announced Wednesday that Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are finalists for the first two out of four expansion clubs.
San Antonio's exclusion from the list is a new upset in an expansion process that has become increasingly frustrating for local soccer fans and leaders alike.
"I don't have any optimism about any of this mess," Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said.
The announcement did not surprise Wolff, who said it appears Spurs Sports & Entertainment, the owners of San Antonio F.C., took itself out of consideration for this round.
Wolff's office released a portion of a Nov. 17 letter from MLS attorney, Bradley I. Ruskin, to Judge Wolff, which states, "Based on discussions between MLS and the Spurs, consideration of the Spurs' application is being deferred until the second phase of the expansion process with the agreement of the Spurs."
The judge said he had not previously been informed by the Spurs or MLS about the deferral of the application.
Spurs Sports & Entertainment released its own statement Wednesday that read, in part:
Major League Soccer executives have been clear with our organization, city and county leaders that San Antonio was not a first-round expansion candidate. Accordingly, Spurs Sports & Entertainment will continue to vigorously pursue an MLS franchise for the remaining two slots in the expansion process.
The statement does not directly address whether the Spurs deferred consideration as Wolff said.
This round's two MLS expansion teams will be selected before the end of the year. Two more expansion teams are expected to be picked later, though Wolff has his doubts.
"There 'may' be another round. They didn't say it would," he said. "According to the lawyer letter, there 'may' be another round."
However, back in July, Wolff had also acknowledged San Antonio may not have a shot at the first two spots.
"We kind of think we have a better shot at the third and fourth pick, and when we don't know when that would be - possibly sometime next year," Wolff said in a July interview with KSAT. "We just don't know for sure."
This latest setback does nothing to improve Wolff's view of the league, which soured considerably in October when news broke the owner of an existing MLS team, Columbus Crew Soccer Club, was considering a move to Austin.
It was a contingency Wolff said city and county leaders didn't know about, and that given Austin's proximity to San Antonio, would almost certainly kill San Antonio's chances of getting its own MLS franchise.
Wolff, who asked the Bexar County District Attorney's Office to investigate the process, believes it isn't just the Columbus Crew's owner that is angling for the move; it's MLS, too.
"After that move - when they tried to move to Austin - I mean, it didn't take an idiot to figure out what was happening, and that's when I knew something was rotten in Denmark," he said.
Even before the news about Austin, local leaders were seeking clarity on the bid process.
"We've spent the last four months seeking a meeting directly with MLS, and we still remain hopeful," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. "But it is growing concerning for us that our requests have not been returned."
In 2015, MLS announced plans to expand to 28 teams. Los Angeles Football Club begins play in 2018, becoming the league's 23rd team. Discussions continue for a MLS expansion team in Miami.
Spurs Sports & Entertainment is one of 12 franchises that have officially applies for an expansion team.