Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber officially announced today that MLS has awarded an expansion team to the city of St. Louis. The team will begin MLS play in 2022 in a new soccer stadium located in the Downtown West district of St. Louis.
The owners of the St. Louis club include Enterprise Holdings Foundation president Carolyn Kindle Betz and six other female members of the Taylor family, making it the first female majority-owned club in MLS history, and one of few in professional sports. The ownership group is completed by two highly respected executives who also have deep roots in the St. Louis business and philanthropic community: Enterprise Holdings executive chairman Andy Taylor and World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh.
“It is with great pride that we welcome St. Louis to Major League Soccer,” said Commissioner Garber. “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.”
“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,” said Carolyn Kindle Betz. “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.”
St. Louis’ club and its new downtown soccer stadium are central elements of a major development project in the Downtown West district. In addition to the stadium, the development will include mixed-use retail, restaurants and gathering spaces open year-round to the public. The project will support the continued revitalization of St. Louis, a community that is regarded as one of the best places in America to raise a family and cherished for its blend of business, cultural, educational, and sports institutions.
The addition of St. Louis to MLS is the latest pivotal chapter in soccer’s explosive growth in North America. The city — regarded by many as one of the most passionate soccer markets in North America — has a diverse population, devoted fan base, and great tradition in the game. The U.S. team that upset England in the 1950 FIFA World Cup included five American immigrants from the St. Louis neighborhood known as “The Hill.” The men’s team at Saint Louis University has won 10 NCAA championships, and the Hermann Trophy — the Heisman for college soccer — is awarded annually at the Missouri Athletic Club.
The new MLS club is expected to be immensely popular, as sports fans of St. Louis have a deep history of supporting soccer. The U.S. Women’s National Team’s friendlies at Busch Stadium in preparation for the 2015 and 2019 FIFA World Cups each drew more than 35,000 fans — two of the top three crowds for the U.S. for non-World Cup games during that four-year span. In 2015, the U.S. Men’s National Team defeated St. Vincent and the Grenadines in a World Cup qualifier before more than 43,000 fans at Busch Stadium.
The city’s USL team, Saint Louis FC — whose arrival in 2015 was spearheaded by Kavanaugh, who played soccer professionally and at Saint Louis University — has amassed a spirited following. This year, Saint Louis FC advanced to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
St. Louis also is a breeding ground for elite soccer players. The youth soccer programs of the St. Louis metropolitan area include more than 50,000 players. Those programs have helped develop several players into professionals, including current 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 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.
With the addition of the MLS team in St. Louis, 18 clubs have joined MLS since 2005, fulfilling a vision for strategic expansion that has transformed the landscape of professional soccer across North America. St. Louis’ MLS team joins the 11-time World Series champion Cardinals of Major League Baseball and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blues of the NHL as the city’s major men’s professional sports teams.
Home to nine Fortune 500 companies and several of the world’s largest privately-held businesses — including Enterprise Holdings and World Wide Technology, the club also is expected to receive strong support from the city’s corporate community. More than 20 Chief Executive Officers from St. Louis-based businesses met with Commissioner Garber and club ownership prior to today’s announcement.