Out of the MLS expansion race two years ago, St. Louis could be
close to securing a team after a bid group made a formal presentation to the league's expansion committee on Monday in New York.
“We had a productive meeting with the St. Louis group and look forward to continuing our discussions with them," the league said in a statement after hearing from Andy Taylor and Carolyn Kindle Betz of Enterprise Holdings and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology.
At the MLS's board of governors meeting in Los Angeles in April, Commissioner Don Garber confirmed plans to expand to 30 teams and picking teams 28 and 29 first and getting approval to advance talks with the Sacramento and St. Louis expansion groups first.
In its statement, MLS said it "continues to work closely with the ownership group representing Sacramento’s expansion bid, and we expect to meet again soon."
MLS almost met with representatives from Charlotte’s MLS expansion bid group led by Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper. Since Tepper became the Panthers owner in May 2018, Charlotte has emerged as one of the most aggressive bidders, tipping Bank of America Stadium, home of the Panthers, as a venue that could attract crowds on the order of what Atlanta United draws.
MLS mentioned Charlotte, Las Vegas, Sacramento and St. Louis by name as among the potential expansion markets scheduled to have groups attend the MLS All-Star week festivities at the end of July in Orlando.
St. Louis back in front. With its deep soccer roots, St. Louis has been tipped for expansion for a long time and was the early favorite in the 2017 expansion race until the local expansion group's request for $60 million in public financing for a 22,000-seat downtown soccer stadium was rejected by city voters.
The Taylor family behind Clayton-based Enterprise Holdings -- whose rental car brands include Enterprise, National and Alamo -- 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 one concern MLS had earlier expressed with the new St. Louis bid was the level of corporate support. After a trip to St. Louis in March to meet with local civic and business leaders, Garber said he came away very impressed with the corporate community’s support for a potential expansion team.
“We’re confident our proposal puts St. Louis in the best position to bring MLS to America’s first soccer capital," said Kindle Betz after Monday's meeting in New York.
Rendering by HOK and Snow Kreilich Architects.