KANSAS CITY, KAN. • Major League Soccer coming to St. Louis is not on the horizon. Since Jeff Cooper bowed out of his pursuit of a franchise, the trail has gone cold. MLS commissioner Don Garber no longer mentions St. Louis when talking about potential expansion sites.
The league will add a team in Montreal next season, bringing it to 19, and then it hopes to get a second team in New York to get to 20. Garber at the start of the season mentioned some other locations that could be in line: San Diego, Arizona, Las Vegas, Detroit, San Antonio, South Florida and Atlanta. But some people remain confident St. Louis will get a team one day — the owners of the Kansas City club.
"St. Louis is going to get something done at some point," said Robb Heineman, CEO of Sporting KC. "Anything we can do to help we will."
"It's amazing not to have a soccer presence in St. Louis," said Cliff Illig, one of Sporting KC's owners, who sits on the league's Board of Governors. "The key is getting ownership. … From a Kansas City standpoint, we'd love to have a Major League Soccer franchise in St. Louis, but it's up to (finding) ownership. We'll do whatever we can to help if and when."
While Cooper was able to put together a stadium deal in Collinsville, he never was able to get together an ownership group with deep enough pockets to satisfy MLS.
Sporting KC would love a team in St. Louis because it lacks a convenient regional rival. While no one in St. Louis has picked up the banner on pursuing a team, Heineman pointed out two things. First, team owners don't necessarily have to live in the city in which they have a team. And two, Illig and Neal Patterson, the two Kansas City entrepreneurs who bought Sporting KC from Lamar Hunt, had no history with soccer.
"Our two guys had never been to a game," Heineman said. "They just believed deeply in the community."