MLS expands to St. Louis; team to start in 2022

MLS announced on Tuesday that it has awarded an expansion team to the city of St. Louis, swelling the league's ranks to 28 clubs.

St. Louis' ownership group includes Enterprise Holdings Foundation president Carolyn Kindle Betz and other female members of the Taylor family, making it the first female-majority-owned team in MLS history. The investor group is rounded out by World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh and Enterprise Holdings executive chairman Andy Taylor. The team will begin play in 2022, and the process for selecting the team name, badge and colors will begin immediately.

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"It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "St. Louis is a city with a rich soccer tradition, and it is a market we have considered since the league's inception.

"Our league becomes stronger today with the addition of the city's deeply dedicated soccer fans and the committed and innovative local ownership group led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, the Taylor family and Jim Kavanaugh."

The announcement caps a process that amounted to a roller-coaster ride. The St. Louis bid looked dead back in 2017 when a city referendum that would have directed $60 million in new tax proceeds toward the construction of a stadium was defeated by voters. That setback led Paul Edgerley, who headed the investment group at the time, to cease his efforts to bring a team to St. Louis.

But this past October, Kindle Betz and other members of the Taylor Family got on board alongside Kavanaugh, who was part of the previous investor group. Thanks to a willingness to fund stadium construction almost entirely with private funds, and with a site located in the Downtown West district, St. Louis was back in the game. MLS announced in April that it had entered exclusive negotiations with St. Louis, and after a series of presentations, the last of which came three weeks ago at the MLS All-Star Game in Orlando, the decision was made to bring the Gateway City into the MLS fold.

"Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and 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," Kindle Betz said. "Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St. Louis' renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game."

The stadium is part of a major development project that will include mixed-use retail and restaurants. According to the ownership group, no tax increment financing or any direct citywide tax investment will be needed to finance the stadium project. The stadium proposal specifies that only those purchasing tickets and items at the stadium will be paying any tax. The team will pay for all stadium maintenance, repair and upkeep.

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 who 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.

The area's youth programs have helped develop several players into professionals, including MLS players Will Bruin (Seattle Sounders) and Joe Willis (Houston Dynamo), Tim Ream (Fulham) of the English Championship, rising star Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) of the Bundesliga, and Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals) of the NWSL and the FIFA World Cup champion with the U.S. women's national team.

In addition, many former MLS players are from St. Louis, including Taylor Twellman, Brad Davis, Chris Klein and Steve Ralston.