According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Major League Soccer is interested in exploring options of building a team in St. Louis as the league hopes to grow from 20 to 28 teams by 2020. MLS Commissioner Don Garber is ready to look at potential downtown stadium sites (i.e. the area proposed for the new Rams’ stadium) as well investors and owners.
Garber has made no promises that St. Louis would get a franchise, but told the paper, “This is a unique moment in time where we can really, finally see if St. Louis is MLS-ready.”
That’s my biggest question. Is St. Louis ready to jump back into another pro sports relationship?
Governor Jay Nixon’s task force laid out early in their visions for the North Riverfront stadium site, that the stadium could also host soccer events. Back in May of 2015, Garber visited with the task force to hear ideas. Now that the Rams are out of the picture, the site could be exclusive to an MLS team.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a St. Louis architecture firm unveiled plans for what a soccer stadium would look like just south of Union Station on Clark Street. Garber said MLS prefers downtown sites and hasn’t looked at any other sites.
How much of this is the MLS being proactive and how much of this is the city of St. Louis and civic leaders trying to rebound from a bad breakup? Perhaps more of the latter and there are three key pieces that will play a part in this…fans, ownership and a stadium.
“Nobody argues that St. Louis is not a great soccer market,” Garber said. “It has a passionate fan base, and a great soccer history.”
There is no doubt a following for soccer. Back in November, Busch Stadium hosted a USA World Cup qualifying game and drew 43,000 fans. Back in May of 2013, Busch Stadium also hosted two of the most storied English Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City in an exhibition match.
As of now, St. Louis doesn’t have an owner and oh yeah…no firm stadium plan either.
Before you get excited thinking soccer is coming to St. Louis consider how this has probably played out. I’m guessing just like a relationship breakup.
-The Rams and the NFL kicks St. Louis to the curb and moves to L.A.
-St. Louis civic leaders have their egos bruised and are hellbent on building a stadium and getting some type of a team
-Those on the rebound call up MLS’ Garber and says come look at us again.
-Garber agrees to go on the date, but won’t offer a long term commitment. He needs to see more from St. Louis.
Garber is doing his due diligence for the league, but the fact is MLS has several other cities that have shown interest in creating an expansion team. MLS will add four more teams over the next couple of years: Atlanta and Minnesota in 2017, a second Los Angeles team in 2018, and a possible team Miami, where soccer star David Beckham is trying to overcome issues. Garber said the league is also looking at Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio and Detroit.
That leaves St. Louis in a group of five cities vying for four spots.
Garber and the league would be relying on the public to cough up some money to help build the stadium. If St. Louis were to get a team by 2020, that would still leave five years of payments left on the dome.
Perhaps Governor Nixon, Peacock and Mayor Francis Slay all feel the time is right, perhaps hoping the St. Louis citizens, still feeling the sting of losing a team, would join in on this rebound relationship and back the plan.