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St. Louis wins a Major League Soccer expansion team

St. Louis wins a Major League Soccer expansion team

MLS with Garber

Carolyn Kindle Betz and Jim Kavanaugh, leaders of the group hoping to land a Major League Soccer franchise for St. Louis, flank commissioner Don Garber in a February visit to the league's headquarters in New York. (Photo courtesy of MLS4TheLou) 

Major League Soccer plans to announce next week that St. Louis has secured an expansion team, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the league’s expansion timeline.

Sources spoke on condition of anonymity, as the St. Louis ownership group and MLS have not publicized the announcement.

Plans have been made for an event Tuesday in St. Louis.

MLS leaders declined comment Wednesday.

The ownership group released a statement: “Major League Soccer is responsible for the timing of any announcements around League expansion, but we remain confident St. Louis has made a strong case for a team.”

Early Thursday morning, the ownership group announced plans for a special announcement on Tuesday at The Palladium. The announcement mentioned the attendance of ownership group members, Mayor Lyda Krewson, president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen Lewis Reed and additional special guests.

Sources said that event will be the announcement and celebration of the league's endorsement as an expansion city.

League commissioner Don Garber’s praise of St. Louis has been overflowing lately, especially during the MLS All-Star Game two weeks ago in Orlando, Florida.

Garber called the ownership group’s expansion effort “amazing” after the St. Louis group’s presentation to the league’s full board of owners in Orlando.

That presentation was a condensed version of the ownership group’s meeting with the league’s expansion committee last month at league headquarters in New York City, which came after Garber and top league officials met with ownership group members in both St. Louis and New York.

The St. Louis ownership group, spearheaded by Carolyn Kindle Betz, president of Enterprise Holdings Foundation, and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, presented a plan to the league that included a primarily privately funded downtown stadium and a majority female ownership group.

Named “MLS4TheLou,” the ownership group led by Betz, Kavanaugh and other members of Enterprise’s Taylor family revived a previous failed effort to secure an MLS team for St. Louis. The city has a rich soccer tradition that has long been on the radar of MLS, increasingly so after the Rams football team left in 2016.

The most recent soccer swing-and-miss came in April 2017. Agroup led then by Kavanaugh, an owner of St. Louis’ United Soccer League team St. Louis FC, and Boston-based investor Paul Edgerley was unable to secure $60 million in public money for a stadium plan through a business-use tax that was rejected by city voters.

The Taylor family, citing the area’s soccer tradition and a desire to see MLS help revitalize downtown, then came forward to partner with Kavanaugh, pitching a $250 million stadium that will be largely privately financed. The new ownership group has said it will cover the league’s $200 million expansion fee.

Garber, who visited St. Louis in March to meet with the group and potential sponsors, told the Post-Dispatch at an April ownership meeting that the league was entering “exclusive, formal” discussions with St. Louis and Sacramento as it aimed to expand from 27 teams to 30. Sacramento continues to work on an expansion spot. Thanks to the efforts of National Football League team owner David Tepper, Charlotte, North Carolina, has emerged as an expansion challenger.

Garber said during the All-Star game festivities that the St. Louis project was advancing rapidly.

“Their project is amazing,” Garber told Fox Sports. “It’s a massive downtown stadium project. The Taylor family really is St. Louis.”

The St. Louis expansion team is targeting 2022 to start play.

Final plans for stadium financing, sponsorship deals and team details, such as team name and colors, have not been revealed.

Soccer history in St. Louis

What will the new soccer stadium look like? A peek:

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