Major League Soccer awarded St. Louis its newest expansion franchise on Tuesday, entering a market it long has coveted with what will be the first female majority-owned team in league history.
The new team will begin play in M.L.S. in 2022.
“It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer,” Commissioner Don Garber said in a ceremony that included members of the new ownership group. “St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer tradition, and it is a market we have considered since the league’s inception.”
The new soccer club will join the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues and the 11-time World Series champion Cardinals as the city’s major sports teams.
The new St. Louis franchise will be the 18th club to have now joined MLS since 2005, an era of strategic expansion led by Garber that has transformed the landscape of professional soccer across North America. F.C. Cincinnati joined M.L.S. as the 24th team this season. Teams in Nashville and Miami will make their debut in 2020, and another in Austin, Tex., will begin play in 2021.
M.L.S. announced in April that it planned to expand to 30 teams.
The prospects of an M.L.S. franchise ever calling St. Louis home appeared to have died two years ago, when voters in the city — stung by the announcement that the N.F.L.’s Rams were departing to return to Los Angeles — rejected a proposal to use a business tax to finance a new downtown soccer stadium.
Then a new potential ownership group came along.
Led by members of the founding family of car rental giant Enterprise, the city began to work anew last fall on its pitch for an M.L.S. team.
“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 Carolyn Kindle Betz, a granddaughter of the Enterprise founder Jack Taylor and the president of Enterprise Holdings Foundation.
Six other female members of the Taylor family are part of the ownership group, which also includes Jim Kavanaugh, a soccer insider who was part of the first failed ownership team.
The team’s proposed stadium, which is planned for Market Street just west of Union Station, will be the centerpiece of a major development project in St. Louis’s Downtown West district. As proof of the city’s commitment to the project, the St. Louis Board of Alderman easily approved a resolution last November to provide tax exemptions and other incentives to help with the construction.
St. Louis, long a hotbed for youth soccer, has a long tradition in American soccer. In 1950, five immigrants from “The Hill” neighborhood helped the United States upset England in the World Cup in Brazil. Saint Louis University has won 10 national titles in men’s soccer, and the Hermann Trophy given to the top college player in the country is awarded annually at the Missouri Athletic Club.
“St. Louis has always been and will continue to be one of the great historic soccer cities throughout the United States,” Garber said at a news conference attended by the Blues legends Bernie Federko and Chris Pronger and the former Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith. “After two decades of discussions about St. Louis being a part of our league, today the moment has arrived.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.
Source link Sports