A week ago, Major League Soccer officially announced St. Louis as the home of the league’s 28th franchise. It’s been a long time coming for a city that is considered one of the cultural epicenters for soccer in this country. But questions remain – will this bastion of American soccer make for a valued franchise in the city? My guess is yes – there’s a lot to like about St. Louis as an MLS market.
WE DID IT, #STL! Today @MLS announced that #StLouis will join the league as team #28 and begin play in 2022. It took a team to get the team, and we thank all of you who supported this effort. Sign up at https://t.co/hYuRTTwtfn for more news on our team. #MLS4THELOU pic.twitter.com/KO6JYBurnr
— MLS4TheLou (@MLS4theLou) August 20, 2019
St. Louis – soccer hotbed
First, while history isn’t everything, it’s worth noting St. Louis’ rich soccer history. From being the home to five of the stars who represented the U.S. at the 1950 World Cup to decades of collegiate and club soccer excellence, the Gateway to the West has as varied a history of soccer as any city in the United States. In recent years, St. Louis has produced several professional players, including Tim Ream, Vedad Ibisevic, Josh Sargent, Will Bruin, and Becky Sauerbrunn.
Millennials and MLS
Secondly, city residents are relatively young. Thanks to nearby universities such as Saint Louis University and Washington University in St. Louis, the city posts a median age of 35.2 years, exactly three years younger than the national median. This is increasingly interesting for MLS as soccer continues to be one of the leading sports of choice for Millennials.
Downtown soccer-specific stadium
Thirdly, the city is close to finalizing a deal to build a soccer-specific stadium with mostly private funding. The stadium is slated to open alongside the team’s inaugural MLS season in 2022. The stadium will be just west of Union Station and will be the key focal point to the Downtown West District, which will include added retail, restaurants and green space.
The team’s next priority: finalizing a location and design for a new stadium.
Currently, the stadium will be located on the western edge of the city, two miles from the arch.
New retail stores and restaurants are planned to surround the up to 25,000 person capacity stadium 🏟 pic.twitter.com/qBR1shx6rM
— Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing (@SoccerMarketing) August 21, 2019
Female majority owners
Last, and perhaps most intriguing, the ownership group is lead by Carolyn Kindle Betz and six other members of the Taylor family – owners rental car company, Enterprise. This ownership group, also joined by Jim Kavanaugh of World Wide Tech, is the first female majority ownership group in MLS history. For a league with diverse players and diverse fans, adding more and more diverse owners is just as important. Just ask the Seattle Sounders who recently announced additions to their ownership group, including Russell Wilson, Ciara, and Macklemore.
The St. Louis consortium is comprised of people who not only live and breathe St. Louis, but also soccer. Collectively, they share a passion and desire to bring the highest standard to residents of St. Louis who have supported the sport at all levels for so long. With a void in the city’s professional sporting landscape following the Rams’ departure, the MLS franchise should be able to capitalize immediately. For MLS, adding another team in the Midwest adds natural city rivalries between Chicago and Kansas City to the mix.
March 2022 may seem far away, but for St. Louis soccer fans it can’t come soon enough.