But reservations about the financial strength of the Sacramento group weren't addressed until early this year when Ron Burkle, a Beverly Hills billionaire who made his fortune in the grocery business, buying and selling supermarket chains and distributors, came on board. The move followed a year-long search to strengthen Sacramento's bid.
The unanimous vote by the Sacramento City Council last week to approve the preliminary term sheet for construction of a new soccer stadium at the Railyards site makes Sacramento’s bid as good as go as Nashville's was in late 2017 when it was the first to cross the finish line.
Garber on Sacramento:
“Sacramento has persistently told us for nearly five years that they are built for MLS, and we look forward to continuing discussions with Ron Burkle and Matt Alvarez about adding an expansion team to the market. We know Sacramento has a transformational stadium plan and strong engagement from government leaders. Since Ron and Matt recently became controlling partners in the ownership group, our expansion committee wanted to meet with them and learn more about their plans for the club.”
St. Louis quickly faded in the 2017 expansion race when the expansion group's request for $60 million in public financing for a 22,000-seat downtown soccer stadium was rejected by city voters.
But a new group emerged last fall with new plans for a stadium at the same downtown plot of land, this time with "overwhelming" private funding covering the $250 million cost.
The Taylor family behind Clayton-based Enterprise Holdings -- whose rental car brands include Enterprise, National and Alamo -- is leading the new effort, which, if successful, would make would St. Louis the first MLS team majority-owned by women. Carolyn Kindle Betz, a senior vice president at Enterprise and executive director of the company’s charitable foundation, leads the ownership group with six other female members of the Taylor family. (Jim Kavanaugh, a part-owner of the USL's Saint Louis FC, is again involved in the ownership effort.)
The big concern MLS expressed with the new St. Louis bid was the level of corporate support.
Garber on St. Louis:
“St. Louis has a terrific ownership group and a long history of supporting the beautiful game. During our visit to St. Louis last month, we came away very impressed with the corporate community’s support for a potential expansion team, and we believe the downtown site is the ideal location for a soccer stadium. We know there is still important work that needs to be completed to secure the stadium site before an expansion team could be awarded to St. Louis, and our expansion committee looks forward to meeting with the ownership group.”
Indeed, the good news is that Sacramento and St. Louis are on course to nail down the next expansion spots. The bad news: the expansion fee just went up to $200 million.
Left to be determined: the time frame for when teams 28 and 29 would enter the league. MLS will want to avoid having an odd number of teams like it did in 2018 when LAFC came in as the 23rd team.