WHEN WILL MLB EXPAND AGAIN?
Rob Manfred’s repeated assertion that he sees the league growing to 32 teams – and his recent comment that it will do so “shortly” after the A’s and Rays’ situations are resolved – suggests that there is a consensus among existing owners that the benefits of expanding will outweigh the potential risks. As such, it is not the more fundamental issues that, right now, are blocking expansion, but shorter-term reasons.
This is not the 1980s, where short-term problems were used to hide broader scepticism amongst the owners about expansion. There are concerns that baseball is losing market share to other sports and expansion is one way to try and regain a foothold, attracting new fans to the sport and generating excitement about the league. Rob Manfred is on the record as saying that MLB is "a growth business... sooner or later, growth businesses expand."
The temptation, therefore, would be to suggest that MLB will begin expansion proceedings in 2026. The A’s and Rays stadium sagas are close to being resolved shortly, while a new CBA could be negotiated on the basis of adding two new teams to the league. If proceedings began in 2026, it would likely mean that two new teams would be selected in 2027, slated to begin play in 2030.
But there is plenty that could change before then – new short-term issues could crop up including further stadium sagas, the A’s and Rays might need a bedding in period in new markets before MLB countenances expanding, and more. An expansion process beginning in 2026 with new teams beginning play in 2030 seems possible, but only if everything goes right.
 "Rob Manfred Outlines Details On Possible MLB Expansion", Forbes, Maury Brown, 11 July 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2023/07/11/rob-manfred-outlines-details-on-possible-mlb-expansion/
 Playing Hardball: the high-stakes battle for baseball's new franchises, David Whitford, 1993.
 "Why is baseball no longer America’s Game?", CNN, Harry Enten, 7 April 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/07/sport/mlb-opening-day-baseball-popularity-spt-intl/index.html
 "MLB commish Rob Manfred says expansion is long-term goal, but don’t expect it soon", The Comeback, Kevin McGuire, 21 April 2016, https://thecomeback.com/mlb/rob-manfred-mlb-expansion-long-term.html
 "The baseball commissioner has a message for Wisconsin. Fix American Family Field — or else", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Daykin, (no date), https://eu.jsonline.com/story/money/real-estate/commercial/2023/05/25/brewers-ballpark-funding-draws-concerns-from-mlb-commissioner-manfred/70253613007/