MLS Expansion: St. Louis, Phoenix both still in play

PhxRisingFC.com
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MLS just can’t stop growing. Even before Atlanta United and Minnesota United make their MLS debuts, discussion is heating up about the next two expansion cities, set to begin play in 2020.

St. Louis, once thought to be the most likely destination for a new franchise, seemed to be dead in the water after the city’s Ways and Means committee shot down a proposal for public funds to help build a new stadium. Major League Soccer has expressed serious interest in St. Louis, but only if a stadium is built.

Suddenly, that has new life after the committee revived the bill, voting for it 5-4 after the proposal was revised to include a provision that taxes ticket sales to recoup some of the public funds used for the venue.

Now the bill will go to public vote, but not before a judge approves it, since the deadline for voting proposals to be included on the April ballot was Tuesday. “There is clearly more work ahead, but today’s result brings us much closer to a ballot measure that will allow city voters the opportunity to make St. Louis a future home for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise,” said Jim Woodcock, spokesman for chief investor group SC STL.

In addition, Phoenix is seriously in the mix after Major League Soccer invited USL team Phoenix Rising to submit an application.

Phoenix Rising, a rebranded version of Arizona United SC, is under new ownership led by Kona Grill CEO Berke Bakay and including Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy. The club announced a soccer-specific stadium to be built in time for play in 2017.

Phoenix and St. Louis are two of 13 cities being considered for Major League Soccer expansion. The deadline to apply is January 31st, while the winners are expected to be chosen later in 2017. Other cities include San Diego, who is looking to build a new venue on the Qualcomm Stadium site after the Chargers moved to Los Angeles, and Charlotte, who is hoping to renovate American Legion Memorial Stadium in the city.