Is St. Louis set to score MLS franchise?

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Big developments Thursday in the push to bring an MLS soccer team and a new soccer stadium to St. Louis.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber released new details about expansion after the league’s board of governors’ meeting in New York.

There are 10 markets up for four expansion slots. St. Louis sure sounded like a frontrunner.

In a little less than three years, a St. Louis team may be competing for Major League Soccer's MLS Cup.
The expansion fee is a league record $150 million, Garber announced.

Prospective ownership groups must submit their applications by January 31, 2017. Two franchises to begin play in 2020 will be awarded in the 3rd quarter of 2017. Two more will be awarded and begin play at dates still to be determined.

The league is targeting St. Louis as one of the 2020 teams.

There was a St. Louis stadium presentation at the meeting in New York, Garber said. Ironically, the Rams’ move from St. Louis was seen as a positive development.

“Certainly the Rams leaving St. Louis opened up an opportunity for us in that market that we had not seen in the years prior,” Garber said. “We feel pretty encouraged by what we’ve been seeing.”

“Having been through this rodeo before I will say I prefer the tenor of what we’re getting from Major Leagues Soccer to what we were getting last year,” said Dave Peacock, a member of the SC STL Executive Committee.

SC STL is the group trying to establish an expansion team here. Peacock led the failed effort to build a new NFL stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis.

“You put this together and you could have a whole different St. Louis,” he said of the soccer stadium plan coupled with other developments on the horizon for the region.

"It's a big day for St. Louis,” said SC STL Chairman Paul Edgerly, who would likely be the team’s majority owner. “We're in an excellent position to be awarded one of the two new MLS franchises in 2020 given St. Louis' reputation as a great sports town, as well as being the traditional home of soccer in the United States.

“Combine that with the strong investor group we've pulled together, our plan for a new multipurpose downtown stadium, our geographical location and television market, and I like our chances. We appreciate the consideration from Commissioner Garber and the league, and now we go to work to get it done."

SC STL leaders admit the stadium issue is a “do or die” proposition for the deal. Garber said any expansion city must have a stadium ready for play in 2020.

The SC STL proposal hinges on $40 million in state tax credits and $80 in support from local taxpayers. That $80 million is subject to a public vote in April.

The expansion fee is $50 million lower than the $200 million project, but that would not impact the level of support required from the public, said SC STL Vice Chairman, Tim Kavanaugh.