Insider Notes: St. Louis's MLS chances grow; Solo's USWNT influence

St. Louis is shooting up the MLS expansion list, Hope Solo is a major influence in the U.S. players' legal battle and Gianni Infantino and Sheikh Salman are co-favorites in the FIFA election. Grant Wahl's insider notes.
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In MLS expansion news, an MLS source tells me that losing its NFL team has caused St. Louis to shoot up to “the top of the list” for expansion cities after Miami.

MLS officials visited St. Louis recently, and former Anheuser-Busch president Dave Peacock is leading the charge to get a soccer stadium built on the Mississippi River near the Arch. St. Louis mayor Francis Slay is also supportive of an MLS team, and with talk that there will be at least some public funding of the stadium, MLS is optimistic that it will draw the interest of big-pocketed owners and potentially even spark a bidding war for the team.

Still, I’m told a St. Louis MLS team likely wouldn’t start play until 2020 or beyond.

Here are a couple of more insider notes from around the soccer world:

Solo's USWNT influence off the field

The U.S. women play their Olympic qualifying decider in Houston against Trinidad and Tobago on Friday. One of the big stories surrounding the U.S. team is a labor battle with U.S. Soccer over the existence of a collective bargaining agreement—and you might be surprised that one of the most influential players in pushing the U.S. women’s case has been Hope Solo.

While Solo isn’t a captain, she was the player who brought in Rich Nichols to take a stronger approach and was instrumental in advocating for him when the players voted for Nichols as their new union executive director just over a year ago. When I spoke to Solo, she gave credit to other non-captains including Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe in the labor effort and said not only is the U.S. team important to her, but so is getting a CBA that’s more equitable to the U.S. men.

Infantino, Salman co-favorites for FIFA election

FIFA election is about reform, but do voters want change?

The FIFA presidential campaign is in its final days before the election on February 26. And while a lot of international media is saying Sheikh Salman from Bahrain is the favorite, I have made a lot of calls, and my reporting tells me Sheikh Salman is more of a co-favorite with Gianni Infantino, the UEFA general secretary from Switzerland. In fact, Infantino’s momentum is building to the point that I would even give a slight edge to Infantino.

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Why? As candidates are eliminated round by round on election day, Infantino would stand to gain more votes from supporters of Jordan’s Prince Ali once the contest is narrowed down to two final candidates. A lot can happen in the final week, though, including the possibility of more U.S. government arrests when the voters get together in Zurich.