St. Louis

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St. Louis awarded MLS expansion franchise

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Major League Soccer is heading to soccer’s spiritual home in the United States of America.

St. Louis, Missouri was awarded an MLS expansion franchise on Tuesday, as it became the 28th team in the rapidly expanding league.

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The franchise is expected to enter the league in 2021, along with Austin FC as Inter Miami and Nashville SC are schedule to arrive for the 2020 season.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber was on hand in downtown STL to make the announcement.

Garber was alongside Mayor Lyda Krewson, plus the ownership group led by Andy Taylor and Carolyn Kindle Betz of Enterprise Holdings and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology and Saint Louis FC, who celebrated their success of bringing top-tier soccer to St. Louis. Kindle Betz will be joined by other female members of the Taylor family, which will make STL the first female majority-owned team in MLS history.

“After two decades of discussion about St. Louis becoming part of Major League Soccer, we are here today to announce it,” Garber said. “Saint Louis, with its incredibly rich soccer history, not only deserves an MLS team but has earned one.”

With the owner of Saint Louis FC, the USL franchise in the Midwest city, also involved in the arrival of MLS it is believed the team name, badge and colors will now be selected.

“Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and it’s an incredible feeling to now be able to say, St. Louis is home to the first official majority female-led ownership group in MLS,” Kindle Betz said. “Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St. Louis’ renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game.”

St. Louis’ Downtown West district is now set to be transformed with the stadium kickstarting a larger development which will include mixed-use retail, restaurants and gathering spaces open year-round to the public.

The ownership group have previously released plans for a 22,500-capacity stadium in the West Downtown neighborhood. Not having a solid stadium plan curtailed the efforts of others to bring MLS to St. Louis in the past, with the city council voting against partial funding for a stadium near Union Station in 2017.

But just when it looked like St. Louis would miss out on the MLS expansion race, they’re in.

With St. Louis losing the NFL’s Rams to Los Angeles, this is a shrewd move from MLS and follows their model of placing teams in major U.S. cities which do not have major league franchises across all sports. It takes the league to 28 teams, with Sacramento, Phoenix and Charlotte said to be among the favorites for the next two franchises as the league aims to expand to 30 teams.

It also helps to link up Midwest cities, as FC Cincinnati, the Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Sporting Kansas City and Nashville SC now have a new rival.

STL has brought in very good crowds for their USL side Saint Louis FC and also USMNT and USWNT friendlies, plus international friendlies between European clubs in recent summers.

Many of the USA’s top talents hail from the STL region (Taylor Twellman, Tim Ream, Brad Davis and Steve Ralston to name a few) and there is a rich soccer heritage in the city, with five of the 11 starters for the U.S. side in their historic 1950 World Cup win against England from St. Louis.

College soccer, amateur teams and former pro teams from St. Louis have all had a major impact on soccer in the USA.

There is now an MLS team to build on that legacy and create new iconic moments in St. Louis.

MLS give update on expansion situation

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Major League Soccer has issued an update on expansion, and it appears that the Charlotte bid is making a strong case for itself.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber revealed that the league is in “advanced talks” with both St. Louis and Sacramento who many see as the favorites to be awarded teams 28 and 29. Garber also revealed those two teams hope to begin play in MLS in 2022.

At the last MLS board of governors meeting in Los Angeles in April the league was given permission to talk with the groups from Sacramento and St. Louis about a deal, while the board will meet again in December. In the next 30 days they plan to visit both Charlotte and Sacramento after visiting St. Louis two weeks ago.

“We are in very advanced discussions in St. Louis, and we really appreciated the details that they provided,” Garber said in Orlando, speaking from the MLS All-Star Game. “We look forward to continuing those discussions in the weeks and months ahead.”

With no timeframe given for when teams 28-30 will be announced, there is no rush here. But it appears the STL bid led by an ownership group fronted by Enterprise Holdings Foundation president Carolyn Kindle Betz which includes St. Louis FC owners, is way ahead in this race.

It also seems like Charlotte and Sacramento are now level-pegging, which is a little surprising given the fact that billionaire Ron Burkle is now the majority owner fuelling Sacramento Republic’s expansion bid. Garber did say talks with Burkle were “positive” and there is an expectation that both MLS and Sacramento are working through things at a sensible pace.

When asked specifically about STL and Sacramento, Garber revealed that talks are down the line with both but he also revealed that Charlotte’s bid, led by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper, is making headway.

“We are in advanced talks with both of them. They are not exclusive talks. Exclusive means we’re not talking to anybody else,” Garber said. “It doesn’t mean anybody’s leapfrogging anybody else. We are in discussions with Charlotte, but we are also in discussions with Sacramento and St. Louis.”

Where has this Charlotte bid come from?

Tepper has spoken before about his aim to have an MLS team play at the Bank of America Stadium downtown, and Carolina Panthers president Tom Glick was former president of New York City FC. It is clear Charlotte is in talks, but not having a soccer-specific stadium may be hurting its plan a little.

“We are primarily in the business of having teams that play in soccer specific stadiums,” Garber said. “His plan does not include one. So it’s not something that we’re running with very quickly until we’re very, very, very comfortable that that could be a different path for us. And we’re intrigued by that path because of the success we’ve been having in Atlanta and in Seattle and [the Chicago Fire’s impending] move down to Soldier Field. … It’s an aspect of his bid that puts it sort of in a different path.”

Whatever happens, MLS will not be short of options when it comes to this round of expansion, or even beyond that as 32 still seems like the “magic number” for the league.

Reports suggest that the bid teams from Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Phoenix Rising FC, San Diego and Raleigh were all in Orlando for meetings with MLS around the ASG, which suggests that potential expansion cities San Antonio, Detroit and Tampa Bay are now out of the picture.

Garber isn’t trying to rush into awarding the next expansion franchises and that is a very good idea for everyone involved.

“These are lifetime decisions for a board to make and for an investor to make,” Garber said. “There’s a process that we go through that is really really time consuming. These are massive commitments at this point. When you get involved in an MLS team now with the [$200 million] expansion fee and the stadium, it’s a minimum of $500 million dollars. And finalizing those deals take time. Both of those teams [St. Louis and Sacramento] are looking at coming in 2022, so we’ve got plenty of time for them to get their projects finalized.”

Sacramento, St. Louis emerge as MLS expansion favorites

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Soccer fans in Sacramento and St. Louis will be getting pretty excited right about now.

Both cities are in the frame to get an expansion side in Major League Soccer, according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

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Garber has said both Sacramento and STL have “the strongest bids by far” and ahead of the Board of Governor’s meeting in LA next month the expansion picture will be discussed heavily.

The commish also committed himself to making an announcement before the end of 2019 on the next expansion franchise, and “very likely much sooner than that.”

In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Garber said that Sacramento and St. Louis are way ahead of the other expansion hopefuls but wouldn’t confirm which city is in the lead to get the 28th MLS franchise.

“Both are strong bids, both are great markets, both of them have worked very hard at the political leadership level and very much so at the ownership level, and certainly in each market fans have shown an enormous level of support,” Garber said.

Garber went on to speak of the admiration he has for the new wealthy investors that Sacramento Republic FC have lined up, Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez, with the former the owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL. Brought in by club chairman Kevin Nagle, Burkle and Alvarez have agreed to purchase Sacramento Republic FC if the MLS bid is successful.

For many years, Sacramento were the frontrunners in the MLS expansion race given their impressive crowds in the USL and having a $300 million soccer-specific stadium lined up to be built on the Railyards site in downtown. But from an ownership point of view they were just missing some big investors, as Cincinnati, Nashville and Austin jumped ahead of them. Now, they have the owners they need.

As for St. Louis, their chances of getting a franchise have increased substantially after their MLS bid also received new backing from the prominent Taylor family, who own the Enterprise rental car company. They have revived a bid for a downtown stadium which would be primarily funded privately, and STL’s soccer heritage is clear for everyone to see. St. Louis FC are also having decent success in the USL and their part-owner, Jim Kavanaugh, is involved in their bid as the USL team would become the reserve side if an MLS side arrives in STL.

Adding teams in both Sacramento and St. Louis would also link up plenty of MLS cities nearby, something MLS is keen to do as creating local rivalries has been crucial to the recent success of the league.

With MLS previously planning to only expand to 28 teams, it is also quite clear that it will readjust that number and somewhere close to 30-32 would now be a good number of teams for the expanding league.

Teams 28 and 29 look like being Sacramento and St. Louis, with the likes of Phoenix, Detroit and Las Vegas scrapping it out for the next few spots.

Renewed effort begins for St. Louis MLS franchise, stadium

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ST. LOUIS (AP) St. Louis is back in the hunt for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise after the family behind rental car company Enterprise Holdings announced a bid that calls for a new stadium built mostly with private funding.

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

Members of the Taylor family said Tuesday that the franchise would be majority-owned by women, a first in MLS and a rarity in professional sports. The group also includes Jim Kavanaugh of St. Louis-based World Wide Technology.

St. Louis hopes to become a three-sport town for the first time since the NFL’s Rams left for Los Angeles in 2016.

The Taylors are seeking tax breaks but no other public funding for a downtown stadium.

Enterprise, founded by Jack Taylor with a fleet of seven cars in 1957, is now listed by Forbes as one of America’s largest private companies.

Report: MLS hold talks with St. Louis over expansion franchise

SaintLouisFC.com
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“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.” 

Very interesting.

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.