St. Louis's hopes of landing an MLS expansion team may not be dead after all.
A new bid, headed by the Taylor family, which owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, has revived the city's chances of securing a team. The Taylors are partnering with Jim Kavanaugh, who is a part owner of the current St. Louis-area USL team and was the vice chairman of the SC STL group whose bid was unsuccessful.
As with most MLS expansion bids, its success is going to be contingent on its stadium plan. The new bid is seeking the same land as the previous, failed bid. An April 2017 vote effectively killed off the first one, which was asking for $60 million in public funding. At that point, Kavanaugh claimed it was "likely the final stage of our journey," and the bid that was backed by former Bain Capital managing director Paul Edgerley backpedaled into the shadows.
The new bid will only be seeking "minimal" public funding in the form of a break on a ticket tax, with a 20,000-seat, $250 million stadium at the Union Station downtown site. Unlike the previous bid, no public vote would be required for approval, which eliminates one major variable. The proposal would come down to St. Louis aldermen to approve or deny a deal and for MLS to ultimately sign off on it.
Another element to the Taylor and Kavanaugh families' new bid is that the team, if it comes to fruition, would be majority-owned by women, which would be a first in MLS.
"We recently met with the Taylor Family and Jim Kavanaugh regarding their new vision for Major League Soccer in St. Louis and are impressed by their commitment to the MLS effort,” Dan Courtemanche, MLS Executive VP of Communications, said in a statement. “We look forward to spending time with them during the coming months to learn more about their plan.”
FC Cincinnati will enter the league next season, while Nashville and Miami are slated to begin play in 2020 to bring the league to 26 teams. MLS has a plan to grow to 28 teams, though its date to reach that target hasn't been specified. Kavanaugh told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he'd target a 2022 start date, if granted a franchise. In addition to St. Louis and the winning bids in Cincinnati and Nashville, the previous round of bidding included ones from Sacramento, Phoenix, Detroit, Charlotte, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg, San Diego and San Antonio.
Much has changed regarding the status of each of those bids. Sacramento Republic, thought to be a leader for a bid for so long, has been attempting to secure another majority investor to satisfy the financial commitment the league is seeking. Another USL team, Phoenix Rising FC, did secure the investment of Chinese hotel magnate Alex Zheng in February and the Tampa Bay Rowdies recently came under the ownership of baseball's Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, a vote next month in San Diego will determine whether the Soccer City San Diego group, which has Landon Donovan as one of its chief ambassadors, will be chosen to redevelop the Mission Valley Stadium site vacated by the NFL's Chargers.