How St Louis Got Their MLS franchise – The History and Process of Their Application

ST Louis City MLS Expansion team header

Major League Soccer plans to expand its franchise with a new addition to the sports league. After more than a decade of bidding for the expansion, St. Louis won their MLS expansion bid in 2018. This led to a new St. Louis-based soccer team known as St. Louis City SC. 

The team does not start playing soccer professionally until 2023. For now, the city is in the midst of developing the home stadium for St. Louis City SC. It is going to be a stadium explicitly designed for soccer with approximately 22,500 seats. All the team’s home matches will take place there. They have recently announced the team logo and colors. 

The History of St Louis MLS bid

There was an earlier interest for an MLS expansion to St. Louis back in 2008. A local city lawyer named Jeff Cooper had made numerous bid attempts to have an MLS expansion team form out of the Greater St. Louis area. 

Unfortunately, the MLS decided to expand to other cities instead. It was surprising to Cooper because he had secured $600 million to construct an 18,500-seat sports stadium called the Collinsville Soccer Complex. Numerous soccer teams and clubs throughout the St. Louis area could have used it as their home stadium. 

However, the MLS representatives felt that Cooper did not have enough seasoned investors to financial support his massive investment in the stadium’s construction. After the MLS turned him down, Cooper launched a Women’s Professional Soccer franchise. But his hopes for expanding into the MLS had failed for the time being. 

In 2014, the City of St. Louis announced their interest in constructing a multi-purpose stadium for both American football and soccer. That way, they could sell the idea as a future home stadium for the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League. 

MLS Commissioner Don Garber loved the idea because the city planned to build the stadium in downtown St. Louis, where a large soccer community existed. But Garber warned that any possible MLS expansion into St Louis wouldn’t take place until after 2020. 

The negotiations continued for a little over a year. The ultimate dealbreaker was when the St. Louis Rams moved their team to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Rams. Once that happened, the idea of an MLS expansion started to get taken more seriously. The MLS expressed interest in expanded to St. Louis as early as 2020. 

There was a minor setback in 2017. St. Louis’s Aldermanic Ways and Means Committee and Board of Aldermen approved the use of $60 million in local tax revenue to fund a portion of the $200 million construction for the stadium. The only problem was the local citizens voted against using city taxes for this project. It stalled negotiations for another year.

In mid-2018, a crucial meeting was held between MLS representatives and the Missouri Department of Economic Development. There was a new group of investors who were interested in building a stadium in St. Louis. These investors were related to the founder of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car agency, who had just died two years prior. They wanted to fund the stadium’s construction so that local city tax revenue would not have to be used to pay for it. 

As a result, the local Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee voted unanimously to approve the stadium’s construction. Less than one year later, on August 20th, 2019, the MLS made an official announcement that St. Louis would be the 28th franchise of its league. St. Louis City SC is expected to begin the season in 2023. 

The new stadium will lie on 31 acres of land. It will feature team offices and training facilities for the soccer players. The city hopes the stadium will drive more business to downtown in western St. Louis. All the tourism from these games should help make that happen.

How St Louis Got Their MLS franchise – The History and Process of Their Application
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