St. Louis, one of the oldest hotbeds for soccer in the United States, has until recently rarely been considered an MLS expansion target. But with the exit of the NFL Rams to Los Angeles, a serious
effort is underway to explore what it will take to bring MLS to St. Louis. The latest development was the formation of MLS2STL headed up by prominent area sports figures. Dave
, chairman of the board of directors for the St. Louis Sports Commission and former president of Anheuser-Busch, Bill DeWitt III
, president of Major League Baseball’s
Cardinals, and Chris Zimmerman,
President and CEO of the NHL's Blues are among those on the exploratory group committee.
Also on the committee is Jim Kavanaugh
, owner of the
USL's St. Louis FC, and leaders from the St. Louis business community.
If successful, St. Louis would likely be in the second wave of expansion as MLS moves from 20 to 28 teams. After
Atlanta (2017), Minnesota (likely 2017), LAFC (2018) and Miami (still trying to nail down a stadium), Sacramento is right now the hot pick to nail down MLS's 25th team. St. Louis and San Antonio are
the most visible of the other cities looking to join the league.
The St. Louis Stars played in the old NASL for 11 years. They were one of the survivors after the contraction of 1968 but
never drew as many as 10,000 fans a game. In 1978, at the height of the NASL, the Stars moved to Anaheim and became the California Surf.
St. Louis is the sixth largest television market in the
United States without an MLS team lined up after Tampa-St. Petersburg, Phoenix, Detroit, Cleveland and Sacramento and 21st largest overall.
The initial goal of the group will be to work
with the St. Louis Sports Commission to identify a potential team owner or owners and stadium sites, as well as evaluate funding options and overall viability of the St. Louis market.
commissioner Don Garber recently talked with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay about St. Louis.
“We know St. Louis is a tremendous
soccer market and are pleased to see many prominent business and sports leaders becoming involved in the efforts to bring a Major League Soccer team to the downtown area,” Garber said in a
statement MLS2STL Group released. “We look forward to working with the group to further evaluate St. Louis and see if it is ready for an MLS expansion team.”