After decades of waiting, Major League Soccer will finally have a home in St. Louis.
MLS formally announced St. Louis as the league’s 28th team on Tuesday, awarding the Missouri city an expansion franchise in a move that has been inevitable ever since a strong ownership group finally emerged in a market MLS has long targeted.
“It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. “St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer tradition, and it is a market we have considered since the league’s inception. Our league becomes stronger today with the addition of the city’s deeply dedicated soccer fans, and the committed and innovative local ownership group led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, the Taylor family, and Jim Kavanaugh.”
“Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and it’s an incredible feeling to now be able to say, St. Louis is home to the first official majority female-led ownership group in MLS,”said Kindle Betz. “Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St. Louis’ renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game.”
The St. Louis team will begin play in MLS in 2022, with a new stadium set to be built in the Downtown West district of St. Louis.
Tuesday’s announcement ends years of failed attempts to bring MLS to St. Louis, a process that endured several close calls and unsuccessful ownership group bids. The city looked like it might have had its last chanced thwarted in 2017 when voters rejected a stadium funding referendum that would have helped fund a proposed stadium project.
A year later, the current ownership group emerged, featuring the type of financial muscle that past St. Louis groups didn’t have. That made choosing St. Louis an easy call for a league that had tried on several occasions to bring a team to the city.
MLS is currently at 24 teams, with Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC set to begin play in 2020, and Austin FC kicking off as the league’s 27th team in 2021.
With the 28th expansion spot now filled, MLS will turn its attention to filling two more slots to expand the league to 30 teams. Sacramento is the front-runner to be next on the list of cities to be awarded a team, with Charlotte rapidly emerging as a strong contender to secure one of the remaining spots. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Raleigh, North Carolina are also among the other contenders for the next two expansion slots.