Major League Soccer (MLS) and Commissioner Don Garber announced Thursday the professional soccer league will expand by four teams, with two teams to be announced in 2017 and two more at a later date.
St. Louis is one of the cities under consideration, along with San Antonio, Texas; Sacramento, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Detroit; Nashville, Tenn.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
St. Louis and Sacramento are reportedly the frontrunners.
The teams that join the league in 2017 will have to pay a $150 million expansion fee and begin play in 2020.
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“There is tremendous interest in professional soccer across the United States and Canada,” Garber said in a statement. “Since announcing plans to expand to 28 clubs late last year, many potential ownership groups have contacted us, and numerous public officials have stated their desire to bring an MLS expansion team to their city. We look forward to reviewing expansion applications in the coming months and conducting formal meetings in 2017 with possible team owners.”
Paul Edgerley, chairman of the SC STL group bidding to bring an MLS expansion franchise to St. Louis, issued the following statement Thursday:
“It’s a big day for St. Louis. We’re in an excellent position to be awarded one of the two new MLS franchises in 2020, given St. Louis’s reputation as a great sports town as well as being the traditional home of soccer in the United States. Combine that with the strong investor group we’ve pulled together, our plan for a new multipurpose downtown stadium, our geographical location and television market, and I like our chances. We appreciate the consideration from Commissioner Garber and the league, and now we go to work to get it done.”
Edgerley leads the St. Louis ownership group along with current St. Louis FC owner Jim Kavanaugh, Terry Matlack and Dave Peacock. The group’s proposed site for a $200 million stadium is just west of Union Station in St. Louis. How it will be financed is yet to be determined, but some public subsidy likely will be included in the final proposal.
Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC will join the league next season, with LAFC beginning league play in 2018. The MLS also has expansion plans for a 24th team in Miami.
Expansion ownership groups are required to submit applications by Jan. 31, 2017. The league will review candidates and meet with the prospective ownership representatives.
According to to the MLS, the key items being considered for prospective expansion franchise are the ownership group’s structure and financial information, details on proposed stadium site and financing issues and a business plan including projections and commitment letters for naming rights and a jersey-front sponsor.
Here are the further qualities being considered by the MLS search committee:
- A committed local ownership group that has a passion for the sport, a deep belief in Major League Soccer and the resources to invest in the infrastructure to build the sport in their respective market.
- A market that has a history of strong fan support for soccer matches and other sporting events, is located in a desirable geographic location and is attractive to corporate sponsors and television partners.
- A comprehensive stadium plan that ensures the club will have a proper home for their fans and players while also serving as a destination for the sport in the community.
The MLS expansion committee includes Jonathan Kraft (New England Revolution), Andrew Hauptman (Chicago Fire), Anthony Precourt (Columbus Crew SC), Phil Rawlins (Orlando City SC) and Jay Sugarman (Philadelphia Union).