MLS is coming to St. Louis, so the USL team is going.
Saint Louis FC, the USL Championship team that’s been playing in suburban Fenton, Mo., since 2015, will shut down at the conclusion of the 2020 season. The club’s owner, World Wide Technology CEO and former Saint Louis University player Jim Kavanaugh, is a minority investor in the city’s incoming MLS team, St. Louis City.
City plans to begin playing at a new downtown stadium in 2023. Saint Louis FC’s departure will leave the market without pro soccer for two years. The USL club was obligated to inform the league office by the end of August whether it would be playing in 2021.
When contacted by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, a Saint Louis FC spokesperson said, "The ownership decided that with the financial impact of COVID-19 and MLS on the horizon, it didn’t make sense to continue operations."
When asked about Saint Louis FC in a recent interview, City majority owner Carolyn Kindle Betz told SI, "We’ve never had an official formal relation with Saint Louis FC, not to say that we’re not very appreciative of all of their efforts, their supporters group, players, coaches, fans, staff—everything they’ve done for the sport. Any kind of decision has to really be made by Saint Louis FC management and ownership over there."
St. Louis City will launch an academy and may begin to field youth teams before its MLS side takes the field in 2023. It remains unclear whether it eventually intends to operate a pro reserve team in the USL Championship or League One. Acquiring or affiliating with Saint Louis FC would’ve been one option, but now that’s not going to happen.
Saint Louis FC averaged 4,532 fans per game at World Wide Technology Soccer Park during the 2019 regular season, a total that was right around the league average. It qualified for the USL playoffs just once across its first five seasons, but made headlines last year with a run to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals that included wins over a pair of MLS clubs. It has started the 2020 campaign with a 4-3-2 record.