Rethinking St.Louis Major League Soccer Effort

Three months has passed since Proposition 2 failed in St.Louis which would have allocated $60 million towards a new stadium and for potential Major League Soccer expansion. It’s true that this is another black eye for the region that is coming off of losing the Rams to Los Angeles. St.Louis had been the hotbed for a an expansion team from the MLS in which the area soccer stars like Taylor Twellman, Will Bruin, Steve Ralson, Darryl Doran, Chris Klein and Tim Ream. But looking back upon further review, the effort in getting a Major League Soccer team may have been rushed and should have waited because of a one of the most complex move that has never been solved throughout the region history, and that is county and metro area merger. St.Louis have been hit hard over the last 40 years with the decreasing population throughout the region including losses of manufacturing jobs and crime in the metropolitan area. It was also part of the reason why St.Louis lost their first NFL team the Cardinals in 1987 because city and county leaders couldn’t come to an agreement on the regional merger and a stadium proposal that was suppose to be built in Maryland Heights MO., with the support of St.Louis Metro leaders.

 

On the same day that Prop 2 failed, St.Louis elected its first female mayor in Lynda Krewson in which he supports a city/county merger. On June 12, County executive County Executive Steve Stenger put together a plan and pledged to continue the courtship aimed at combining government through a group that is pushing plan for a county/merger called A Better Together St.Louis.  The group’s goal is to come up with a plan to merge city and county into one large populated city that been divided since 1876 when the city broke away from the county and to increase the regional population. However there are elected county officials and country citizens that are not enthuse with the city/county merger. Many of the county’s leaders don’t want the burden in take up the city’s budget problem other factors that is preventing is the fear of crime spreading to various county’s. Whether it’s race or class these factors has caused a lot of distrust and greater polarization among the citizens for decades.

One reason the Prop 2 fail was the cost of the stadium fee in which SCSTL a propose MLS expansion team ownership, couldn’t cover the remaining $ 60 million dollars on the stadium and voters in the Metro area weren’t reluctant to pay for it and it’s questionable that had the vote included St.Louis County that they too would have voted yes on Prop 2.  the remaining MLS expansion cities such as Nashville, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Antonio, Tampa Bay and Raleigh N.C. they are relying on ownership who are paying for the cost of their own stadiums and stronger local leadership that sees the sport growing among one of the top sports league in the U.S. St. Louis is a soccer town which strong soccer youth programs and league throughout the region and it’s also home to pro soccer teams Saint Louis FC that currently plays in the United Soccer League 2nd Division and the St.Louis Ambush of the Major Arena Soccer League and they’re both well supported but the reality is that St.Louis was not ready for  Major League Soccer team because of disunity between City and County leaders and there was no desire to citizens to pay for the stadium. The dreams in getting Major League Soccer team is not dead yet but in order to keep the dream alive the city/county must merge and citizens who supports the merger must demand that it happen.

 

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Two former NFL cities,St.Louis and San Diego could both have a Major League Soccer team.

Well San Diego sports fans, would you like to share your grief with your fellow St.Louisans brothers and sister in losing an NFL team? I know it’s painful when your team played for over 50 years and enjoyed some of the great Chargers players that feature Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Wes Chandler and Charlie Joyner. St. Louis shares your grieve in losing our football teams to two greedy owners who want to up their franchises in Los Angeles. One thing we also share in common is both cities have strong soccer history. San Diego doesn’t have a very deep history of soccer like St.Louis, but pro soccer in San Diego has in the past, been very successful with the success of the San Diego Sockers, who won 10 Major Indoor Soccer League titles, which were lead by great players like Victor Nogueira, Juli Veee, Brian Quinn and the legendary Steve Zungul.

An Investment Group in San Diego are planning  to redevelop the sight where Qualcomm Stadium by building a new multi-purpose stadium. Unlike St.Louis Major League Soccer plan, the San Diego Groups plans will be privately finance that will seat 40,000 and shared with San Diego State University Football team. The price of the privately finance state in San Diego will be $200 million dollars which will not be voted by the San Diego citizens while the people in St.Louis will get to vote on the stadium proposal that was past this week by the Board of Alderman’s who approved a $60 million dollar funding which should be on the ballot April 4. Both Owner groups Soccer Club Saint Louis and the San Diego ownership group are expected to file an application to the League January 31 along with 11 other cities vying to become one of the maximum 28 teams in Major League Soccer. Just think, should both of these cities are awarded a Major League Soccer they maybe come prime examples of cities bouncing back after losing their NFL franchises. Yes San Diego, losing and NFL team really sucks but just think, 10-15 year the NFL will lose their popularity do to the greedy money hungry billionaire owners who only care about their pocket books instead of their fan base.  So welcome to the club San Diego in bringing in a new sport franchise to root for and bring in some real football (futbol).

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Unity and Trust will determine St.Louis’s efforts in getting a Major League Soccer team.

Let’s just say this has not been a great year in Sports for St.Louis and for many reasons, the Blues fell short in making it to the Stanley Cup Finals by losing in 6 games to the San Jose Sharks. The Baseball Cardinals fell short in making it in to the Major League Baseball playoffs and, watched their arch rival Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908. But the biggest blow to the Gateway City was the lose of another NFL team for the second time in less than 30 years, when Rams owner Stan Kroenke decided to move the team back to Los Angeles.  While the NFL may forever be lost, Major League Soccer executives quickly pounce on the opportunity in landing an expansion team which could add value to a city which traces it’s soccer roots to the late 19th Century.  So far the League have seen positive reviews coming from local city leaders and local sports fans with the successful support of both the United Soccer League team Saint Louis FC and the Major Arena Soccer League team the St.Louis Ambush.

While there is huge enthusiasm in landing a Major League Soccer franchise, there are  major stumbling blocks that could make things difficult in landing a team. On November 17, Soccer Club St.Louis group which involves Jim Kavanaugh, Bill DeWitt, Tom Stillman and Dave Peacock submitted plans to build a Soccer Specific Stadium next to the historic Union Station in downtown are facing opposition from some Alderman Leaders who oppose the plan in using public funding for the stadium. Then there’s another group, Foundry St.Louis lead by Dan Cordes, another group hoping to own an MLS franchise has offer to pay $80 million dollars without using public money to build the stadium. In late October, Dan Cordes presented is stadium plan near Saint Louis University, but has yet to present a major billionaire businessman that would help finance the group.

All of these twist and turns over stadium finance and ownership is a haunting remind of what happen to this city two decades ago in their bid in getting an NFL expansion team which the city loss the bid because of a last minute rival ownership, headed by Stan Kroenke, wanted full control of the team.  Last year Dave Peacock, who is part of Soccer Club St.Louis, tried desperately in keeping the Rams with a $1 billion dollar stadium plan at the Riverfront in downtown St.Louis was rejected by NFL executives and allow the team now owned by Stan Kroenke to move the team back to Los Angeles.earlier this year. Major League Soccer President and Deputy Commissioner, Mark Abbott has already picked Soccer Club St.Louis group to be the ownership of the franchise and so far they have already met with Mayor Francis Slay. Major League Soccer is willing to help the city in landing a team but they must convince a community who have been burned over the last year with the lost of an NFL team and  have become weary in using tax payers money in building another sport stadium. At this time we don’t know what Foundry Group President Dan Cordes has at this point but whatever he has to offer it would not be a bad idea in reaching out to him if he is fulling committed in bring a Major League Soccer team  because at the end Unity and Trust with city leaders, citizens and propose soccer owners will determine St.Louis effort in getting a Major League Soccer.

 

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Saint Louis FC should have a soccer match at Busch Stadium

Saint Louis FC is currently having solid season on and off the field with the team contending the Western Conference standing.  Since the Rams moved back to Los Angeles the team have received local exposure throughout the St.Louis area and remains a candidate in landing a Major League Soccer expansion team for sometime now since the League started in 1996. Throughout much of the season fans have come out to near full capacity at World Wide Technology Field which up to 6,000. However to better the cities chances in get a Major League Soccer team Saint Louis FC should play at Busch Stadium at a minimum of two games. Now, having a soccer match at a baseball stadium is not the ideal place to play but Busch stadium has staged International Friendly Matches, most recently in Nov. 2015 when the U.S. Men’s National Team played and beat St.Vincent and Grenadines 6-1 in which 37,000 fans attended the match.  Another reason for hosting a match at Busch stadium is, FC Cincinnati who are in their first season in the United Soccer League, are currently having a historic league attendance record averaging 17,000 soccer fans in Cincinnati.

 

FC Cincinnati currently plays at Nippert Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati that seats up to 40,000 and on July 16, FC Cincinnati will play Crystal Palace from the English Premier League, which the game is expected to have over 20,000. Saint Louis FC could benefit a great deal of exposure by playing an International Friendly Match at Busch stadium if they played a match against an English Premier League team like Sutherland, Leicester City or Swansea City because the League have enjoyed some of the best t.v. ratings since switching from Fox Sports Net to NBC Sports Network 3 years ago. The MLS is planning to expand to 28 teams and while St.Louis remains a safe bet to be one of the cities to land a team it won’t be a guarantee if Cincinnati continues to average 17,000 in which Commissioner Don Garber will take note.

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Don Garber wants a Major League Soccer team in St.Louis Badly

Sports fans in St.Louis received some very encouraging news when the story broke out on Thursday night that Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber, revealed to St.Louis Post Dispatch writer David Hunn, that the League is currently searching a soccer specific stadium in downtown and gather potential owners for a future expansion team. There’s no doubt that the ball is rolling rather fast for a city that recently had their hearts ripped out of their chest, when the NFL allowed the Rams to move to Los Angeles but some see the MLS move as a desperate attempt from the aftershock and lets face it, since the league started in 1996 St.Louis has failed in 3 attempts in getting a Major League Soccer franchise so right now there is reason to suspect. I believe the opposite and I believe it will happen.

Don Garber wants a Major League Soccer team in St.Louis badly and even though he said that the team could start playing in 2020, who’s to say that the team could play in 2018 and replace Miami as the 24th team in Major League Soccer? Miami Principal owner David Beckham can’t find and stadium sight for his yet to be named team. And sorry Sacramento and San Antonio; two cities who are supposedly ahead of St.Louis that already have an ownership, investors and stadium sight, but soccer history is on the side of St.Louis.

Professional soccer started locally in 1891 which many soccer clubs were started by local Churches and parishes. In 1950 five of the eleven players on the from the historic Italian town, ” The Hill” neighborhood in St. Louis, lead The U.S. Men’s World Cup team to an upset victory against England 1-0, 29 Native 29 St. Louisans have been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and you have two well supported local soccer teams, the St.Louis Ambush of the Major Arena Soccer League and Saint Louis FC of the United Soccer League.

Don Garber is going through greater length to prove to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who didn’t make an effort in keeping the Rams St.Louis, that the city is a solidly good sports town that fans can go out support and appreciate. There will be some roadblocks from local leaders over stadium cost once again though it won’t be as big of a battle because the stadium cost will be a lot lesser than the proposed 1.1 billion dollars NFL stadium. And should he identify an owner with very deep pockets, it would be worth the city’s investment in making St.Louis a true soccer capital than trying lure another NFL team.

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San Diego will get a Pro Soccer team But Will it be the NASL?

Pro Soccer in San Diego will happen very soon but which League? Like St.Louis, San Diego is about to suffer the same fate by losing their NFL team, the Chargers to Los Angeles and, should that happen, the city will only have one pro sports team the Padres. Immediately after the NFL approved the Rams to move to Los Angeles, St.Louis became the talk of Major League Soccer official and coaches as a candidate to land an expansion team in the near future along with San Diego. While San Diego doesn’t have a deep history of soccer like St.Louis, pro soccer in San Diego have been in the past, very successful with the success of the San Diego Sockers, who won 10 Major Indoor Soccer League titles, which were lead by great players like Victor Nogueira, Juli Veee, Brian Quinn and the legendary Steve Zungul.

Former San Diego Padres owner John Moores reportedly was finalizing a deal to buy Everton FC of England’s Premier League and was looking to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego. But while Don Garber praised St.Louis’s chance in getting an MLS team, the commissioner shot down San Diego’s chance during an interview with Grant Wahl of Sport Illustrated in Baltimore during the MLS Superdraft; enter the North American Soccer League who announced their intentions to expand out west. The NASL expansion fees are lower than the MLS and wouldn’t necessary require to build a soccer specific stadium though it could be a challenge to have soccer matches at Qualcomm Stadium so it’s possible that a future NASL team in San Diego could share a soccer stadium with the University of California San Diego or University of San Diego. So while San Diego’s changes in getting an MLS team dimmed with the comments made by commissioner Garber chances are that John Moores will be looking at bringing pro soccer through the NASL and if it happens it would be a nice addition for the city.

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How St. Louis can get a Major League Soccer team.

Now that NFL football is officially dead in St.Louis, the city that gave birth to soccer in America, can now focus on Bring a Major League Soccer franchise. The night the NFL announce the Rams were moving back to L.A., Merritt Paulson, owner of the Portland Timbers, tweeted MLS2STL and quickly became a popular hashtag on twitter. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated and SI.com interviewed several MLS coaches, General Manager and asked one question: among the places that don’t have an MLS team, where would you like to see the MLS go and why? All of them unanimously picked St.Louis to be the city that deserves a team.

But despite the soccer history, since 1977 St.Louis, has lost 7 different Professional Soccer teams from the St.Louis Stars of the old North American Soccer League (NASL) and four Indoor Soccer teams. In 2009 Saint Louis Athletica a Professional Women’s Soccer team, that had notable Goal Keeper Hope Solo, folded after one season while A.C. St.Louis a 2nd division team under the United States Soccer Federation, that included both the United Soccer League and the newly formed North American Soccer League folded after the end of the 2010 season. Most of it was because St.Louis soccer franchises played in very unstable leagues like the NASL, Major Indoor Soccer League, National Professional Soccer League, Word Indoor Soccer League and the Women’s Professional Soccer. In the case of A.C. St.Louis, Saint Louis Athletica, Jeff Cooper who started both of these clubs was hardly nowhere to be found and the team folded under unmanageable financial strain.

So how can St.Louis get a Major League Soccer team?

1) Fan Support: One of the things that League Officials from Major League Soccer will be looking at is fan support. Saint Louis FC will begin its 2nd season under the United Soccer League which is a Minor League Soccer team that’s affiliated with the Chicago Fire. It is important for fans in St.Louis to come out in droves for the upcoming 2016 season and, show their support of the team. Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Orlando and Montreal all got their start under the United Soccer League and were awarded a Major League Soccer team partly because of fan support.

2) Investors/Owners: Expansion fees for a Major League Soccer team cost $100 million dollars Dave Peacock, who was the driving force in trying to Keep the Rams in St.Louis with his stadium proposal, is rumor to have secured investors/owners for an MLS team. Jim Kavanaugh who currently is the Chairman of Saint Louis FC told KSDK sports reporter Frank Cusumano that in order for a Major League Soccer team to happen in St.Louis it needs to be in a similar in fashion in the way how the St.Louis Blues are run under Tom Stillman with 12 investors. Hopefully one of them is the Taylor Family who owns Enterprise Car Rentals in Clayton MO and who are worth 9.1 Billion dollars.

3) Stadium: Originally Dave Peacock along with Bob Blitz proposed to build a 1.1. billion dollar stadium at the North Riverfront to Keep the Rams in St.Louis. A Soccer Specific Stadiums cost between $80 million to 200 million. With the Rams leaving, the North Riverfront can still be revitalize without public financing for a new stadium.

4) Politicians: One of the reason why the Stadium proposal failed is that St.Louis City Leaders and County Leaders don’t often agree and don’t get alone with one another. Both City and County Leaders needs to put whatever differences they have in an effort to Bring Major League Soccer to St.Louis.

St.Louis has a case to for a Major League Soccer team if all of the following list that I wrote comes into fruition. Just because St.Louis has a strong history soccer an expansion franchise from Major League Soccer is not given. It is earned by supporting Saint Louis FC, attracting investors/owners, a stadium plan and politicians coming together. This is the only way to truly make St.Louis the soccer capital in America.

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