Backers of a new MLS expansion squad in St. Louis made a formal pitch to MLS Monday, the same day that the league hinted at how future expansion could proceed.
MLS is currently competing at 24 teams and will expand to 27 over the coming years with Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF joining in 2020, followed by Austin FC in 2021. Expansion slots beyond that remain uncertain, though Sacramento and St. Louis have been singled out by MLS Commissioner Don Garber as the front runners for slots 28 and 29. MLS has said it will expand to at least 30 teams, but has not announced a timeline for doing so, and a compelling field of contenders could ultimately facilitate a 32-team league.
Exactly how expansion is going to proceed remains to be seen, but MLS did provide more details in a statement on Monday. The MLS expansion committee received a formal presentation from St. Louis backers, while league officials met with representatives from Charlotte, where a bid led by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is making an aggressive case. The statement noted the discussions with St. Louis and Charlotte representatives, while adding that it continues to work with Sacramento backers. In addition, it was revealed that representatives from all three expansion suitors–along with Las Vegas and other prospective markets–will attend MLS All-Star festivities in Orlando later this month.
Major League Soccer’s statement on today’s expansion meetings – pic.twitter.com/y9QASq4Cs3
— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) July 15, 2019
It should be noted in the case of Las Vegas that two prospective expansion bids have been reported. Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley has been exploring an MLS expansion team at an upcoming Las Vegas Stadium being built for the NFL’s Raiders, while Renaissance Companies Inc. is in negotiations with the city over a proposal that calls for a new stadium to anchor a redevelopment of the 62-acre Cashman Field site. There has been no confirmation on which group will be represented at All-Star festivities, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
As for St. Louis, the bid there is led by members of Enterprise Holding’s Taylor family, including Carolyn Kindle Betz, and Worldwide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh. Details on what was discussed during Monday’s presentation to the MLS expansion committee have been largely withheld, but a statement from the group took a positive tone. More from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Ownership group leader Carolyn Kindle Betz and other members were not available to specifically comment Monday, an ownership group spokesperson said. But an upbeat statement from the group referred to the meeting as a “critical step” that featured the presentation of a “detailed plan.”
“First, we want to thank Major League Soccer and the Expansion Committee for the opportunity to share our ownership group’s vision for an MLS team in St. Louis,” Kindle Betz said in the statement. “We’re confident our proposal puts St. Louis in the best position to bring MLS to America’s first soccer capital.”
The St. Louis expansion bid is centered around the proposed construction of a new soccer-specific stadium west of Union Station in the city’s downtown (rendering above). A solid stadium plan and backing from a strong group of local investors have been cited as strengths of the bid, but there have been a few challenges identified in the past. MLS has specifically cited the need for greater corporate support through avenues such as jersey sponsorship and stadium naming rights, while there have been some questions about stadium financing. Private money would be the primary funding source for the stadium project, though there has been some uncertainty about proposed public participation.
Rendering courtesy HOK and Snow Kreilich Architects.
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