“Wait, St. Louis is back in the running?”
That was likely your first reaction when reading this news. Yep, ours too. That is the nature of the every shifting expansion race in MLS, folks.
But according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MLS officials held talks with city officials in STL earlier this week about their bid to become an MLS expansion franchise.
Here’s a little more detail from the report:
“An official in Gov. Mike Parson’s office told the Post-Dispatch that officials with the state Department of Economic Development met with Major League Soccer representatives as recently as Tuesday, and that the Parson administration was interested in working on a stadium proposal. The Parson official did not immediately know which St. Louis sites were under consideration and how many other times state officials had met with MLS representatives. The official did not have any information on construction plans, timelines or who beside the state might be involved with discussions.”
With Nashville and Cincinnati awarded franchises 25 and 26 in the latest round of expansion, two more cities from an initial shortlist of 12 are in the running. Sacramento, San Diego and Detroit were previously believed to be the frontrunners for franchises 27 and 28 but maybe that is wide of the mark.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has said time and time again that constant changes in ownership groups and stadium situations mean that the ranking of viability among potential expansion franchises fluctuates considerably.
Yet St. Louis chatting with MLS is a bit of a surprise.
A bid to publicly finance an MLS stadium opposite Union Station in St. Louis collapsed after a public vote in 2017, as $60 million worth of public funding towards the venue was proposed.
There’s no doubt that STL has a rich soccer history and with the NFL’s Rams leaving the city in recent years there is a void to be filled in the sport market in that town.
And as we’ve seen from recent expansion bids in Cincinnati, Nashville and Miami, having wealthy investors on board is key and the report suggests that the Taylor family, who own the Enterprise rental car company, could become involved in a reshuffled ownership group in STL.
Maybe MLS heading to Missouri is back on the table. It would certainly link up the Midwest teams nicely with Sporting Kansas City and Chicago already in MLS and Nashville and Cincinnati soon to arrive.
Watch this space.