Tissue engineering is a promising approach for articular cartilage repair; however, it is challenging to produce adequate amounts of tissue in vitro from the limited number of cells that can be extracted from an individual. Relatively few cell expansion methods exist without the problems of de-differentiation and/or loss of potency. Recently, however, several studies have noted the benefits of three-dimensional (3D) over monolayer expansion, but the ability of 3D expanded chondrocytes to synthesize cartilaginous tissue constructs has not been demonstrated. Thus, the purpose of this study was to compare the properties of engineered cartilage constructs from expanded cells (monolayer and 3D microcarriers) to those developed from primary chondrocytes. Isolated bovine chondrocytes were grown for 3 weeks in either monolayer (T-Flasks) or 3D microcarrier (Cytodex 3) expansion culture. Expanded and isolated primary cells were then seeded in high density culture on Millicell™ filters for 4 weeks to evaluate the ability to synthesize cartilaginous tissue. While microcarrier expansion was twice as effective as monolayer expansion (microcarrier: 110-fold increase, monolayer: 52-fold increase), the expanded cells (monolayer and 3D microcarrier) were not effectively able to synthesize cartilaginous tissue in vitro. Tissues developed from primary cells were substantially thicker and accumulated significantly more extracellular matrix (proteoglycan content: 156%-292% increase; collagen content: 70%-191% increase). These results were attributed to phenotypic changes experienced during the expansion phase. Monolayer expanded chondrocytes lost their native morphology within 1 week, whereas microcarrier-expanded cells were spreading by 3 weeks of expansion. While the use of 3D microcarriers can lead to large cellular yields, preservation of chondrogenic phenotype during expansion is required in order to synthesize cartilaginous tissue.