League officials view St. Louis and Sacramento as front runners for the 28th MLS team, with a decision possible before the conclusion of this year.
In St. Louis and Sacramento, MLS has two intriguing expansion bids that have surged over the last few months. After a previous bid stalled when voters rejected a public funding contribution toward a new stadium in April 2017, St. Louis had its hopes revived by members of Enterprise Holding’s Taylor family and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh. The bid, which has gradually gained momentum over the last several months, calls for the construction of a soccer-specific stadium west of Union Station in downtown St. Louis, with that plan receiving preliminary approval for tax incentives in December.
Sacramento, meanwhile, has been viewed as an intriguing expansion candidates for years, thanks to Sacramento Republic‘s success in Division II USL Championship and a downtown stadium plan for MLS. The lack of a deep-pocketed investor had hampered Sacramento in the past, but that issue was seemingly resolved with January’s announcement that billionaire Ron Burkle was joining the effort as a lead investor.
This week, MLS commissioner Don Garber indicated that St. Louis and Sacramento are the front runners for MLS’s 28th team. He did not rule out revisiting other bids should MLS decide to expand beyond 28 teams, but his comments provide a clearer sense of where the field for club number 28 stands. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Major League Soccer is increasingly focused on Sacramento, Calif., and St. Louis as the home for its next expansion team.
Commissioner Don Garber, in a conversation with the Post-Dispatch on Monday, said that league owners are looking to make a decision on their 28th team before the end of the year. And while the league has been in serious discussions with several other cities regarding expansion, ownership groups in those cities — including Charlotte, N.C., Phoenix and Las Vegas, Garber said — will have to wait.
“Those are cities that, should we ever decide to expand beyond 28, would have to be considered as part of a next round,” Garber said.
As it moves forward, one of the foremost issues for St. Louis will be building corporate support, with backers of the bid likely looking to drum up interest in major partnerships for aspects such as stadium naming rights and jersey sponsorship. Sacramento did fill a major gap with the addition of Burkle, who could also play a larger role in plans to develop the area surrounding the proposed facility.
Phoenix is arguably the strongest bid outside Sacramento and St. Louis, with some of the others in the mix still having their own issues to sort out. Extra time could, in theory, help cities such as Charlotte, where Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper will have to make decisions about the organization’s long-term stadium plans and whether MLS could factor into that strategy. Whether MLS ultimately expands beyond 28 teams, however, remains to be seen, as its more immediate focus will be on sorting out options for the 28th spot.
St. Louis rendering (above) by HOK reflects stadium proposal from previous bid.
RELATED STORIES (St. Louis): Don Garber Visits St. Louis Amidst MLS Expansion Push; St. Louis MLS Expansion Bid Looks for Corporate Support; Board of Aldermen Initially Approve New St. Louis MLS Stadium; Committee to Consider St. Louis MLS Proposal This Week; Aldermen Raise Concerns Over St. Louis MLS Stadium Ownership; Board Approves Tax Incentives for St. Louis MLS Stadium; St. Louis MLS Stadium Funding Model Unveiled; Option on Potential St. Louis MLS Stadium Site Extended; New St. Louis MLS Bid Announced; St. Louis MLS Expansion Talks Back on the Table; St. Louis MLS Stadium Funding Voted Down
RELATED STORIES (Sacramento): MLS Stadium as Cornerstone to Sacramento Development; Mayor Pitches Incentive Package for Sacramento Republic FC Stadium; Ron Burkle Announced as Lead Sacramento Republic FC Owner; Sacramento Republic FC Still Pursuing Additional Investors; Sacramento Republic FC Courting Ron Burkle as Investor?; Next MLS Expansion Decision Could be Made After 2018 Season Begins; Sacramento Republic FC in Talks With Potential Lead Investors; Sacramento Republic FC Continues Pursuit of Investors; Mayor Seeks Clarity on Sacramento MLS Expansion Bid; MLS Expansion: What Comes Next?; Best of 2017, #4: MLS Expansion; Sacramento MLS Bid Requires Additional Backing: Nagle; No More MLS Expansion Decisions Until 2018; MLS Expansion Candidates Being Evaluated This Week; MLS Expansion Finalists Make Their Cases; MLS Expansion Pitches to be Heard Wednesday; Four MLS Expansion Finalists Announced