How far has MLS come? A big downtown stadium would only make St. Louis a “top contender”

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Say what you will about Don Garber, but the Major League Soccer commissioner has the league in a spot where fancy new digs don’t automatically qualify a club for inclusion.

St. Louis has a soccer-loving fan base and a brand new club, Saint Louis FC, in the United Soccer League. It also could have a brand new downtown stadium soon.

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And if those things happen, they’ll be a “top contender” for MLS expansion… in a half-decade.

From the Associated Press:

Garber met Tuesday with Gov. Jay Nixon, mayor Francis Slay and leaders of the group seeking to build a new stadium downtown that would ensure a continued NFL presence. He also spoke at a fan forum at Cardinal Nation just outside Busch Stadium. He said stadium approval would be needed for the MLS to consider St. Louis.

Garber said he didn’t think it would be a problem assembling an ownership group in St. Louis. Expansion fees have skyrocketed in recent years.

His words likely carry more caution given the struggles since the big “Beckham/Miami” announcement last year, one that’s hit obstacle after stadium obstacle and has very little certainty. But to say St. Louis could get a club if it builds a stadium is a lot different than, “If you build it, we will come.”

And it seems soon the bigger league structure plans will need to at least be hinted at by Garber and company.