10:10 PM ET
Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
CloseJeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
Major League Soccer will award an expansion franchise to St. Louis, a source close to the prospective ownership group has confirmed to ESPN. The deal is expected to be announced as soon as next Tuesday.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch was first to report that St. Louis will be MLS’s 28th team.
The ownership group, MLS4TheLou, declined to directly comment on the reports, issuing the following 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.”
MLS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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The move by MLS has been expected ever since April, when commissioner Don Garber said that St. Louis was among the cities with which it was in exclusive negotiations to acquire an expansion team. That momentum accelerated through the summer, culminating in a presentation at the MLS Board of Governors meeting two weeks ago.
It was at that meeting that the St. Louis ownership group, led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, president of Enterprise Holdings Foundation, and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, presented a plan that included a downtown stadium that would be financed primarily with private funds, as well as a majority female ownership group.
“We are in very advanced discussions in St. Louis, and we really appreciated the details that they provided,” Garber said at the time. “We look forward to continuing those discussions in the weeks and months ahead.”
The stadium funding issue was a critical hurdle to overcome. A previous attempt to bring MLS to St. Louis in 2017 died when a referendum that would have provided $60 million in public money towards a venue was rejected by voters.
But MLS has long desired to have a team in St. Louis, given the sport’s long history in the Gateway City. Five of the 11 players that defeated England at the 1950 World Cup were from St. Louis, and the city has produced 29 players and coaches who have been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Now that dream looks to have come to fruition, with the team likely to begin play in 2022.
Source:: Daily Times