St. Louis doesn’t make the cut for Major League Soccer expansion

Rendering of a proposed $200 million soccer-only stadium in St. Louis, just west of Union Station.
Rendering of a proposed $200 million soccer-only stadium in St. Louis, just west of Union Station. SC STL

Not long ago, St. Louis seemed to be a cinch to land a Major League Soccer franchise.

But the city was not included when the league announced Wednesday that it had narrowed down its list of finalists for two new franchises.

Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento remain in the running for MLS’ 27th and 28th teams. St. Louis will have to wait for another day.

Owners and officials representing the expansion markets will make presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s expansion committee Dec. 6 in New York. A decision will be made before the end of the year.

St. Louis became a strong contender when NFL team owner Stan Kroenke began his threats to move the Rams to Los Angeles. Subsequent plans to build a new riverfront stadium for the Rams included features that would make it convertible for concerts as well as smaller soccer crowds.

Garber publicly supported St. Louis and its stadium plans.

Even when the Rams moved, however, the stadium group — recast as SC STL — launched a new effort to build a $200 million soccer-only stadium just west of Union Station, on 22nd Street. Private investors were to cover 60 percent of the total cost of construction, and team ownership would pay the league expansion fees.

The balance of stadium construction costs was to come from a pair of tax referendums on the municipal election ballot last April that had to be passed together.

The first was a half-cent sales tax increase to fund expansion of public transportation in the city. The second was a half-cent use tax on out-of-state business purchases that would have gone directly to the stadium. Only the first measure passed, so stadium plans folded.

In 2015, MLS announced plans to expand to 28 teams. Los Angeles Football Club begins play in 2018, becoming the league’s 23rd team. Discussions continue for a MLS expansion team in Miami.

Two more expansion teams will be picked later.