- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis may be losing football, but Major League Soccer could be on the horizon.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1X82WH2 ) that the league will soon begin searching for a stadium site in St. Louis in the hopes of expanding to the Gateway City.

The NFL approved relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles last month. A proposal for a riverfront stadium that would have housed both the Rams and potentially an MLS team is now dead, though Garber says he was “very excited” by the idea of putting an expansion team on the St. Louis riverfront.

Garber said the soccer league is starting to pull together potential owners for a St. Louis team. He says several people have contacted him, along with St. Louis civic leaders.

Garber couldn’t promise a team will play in St. Louis, but he said he’s anxious to see if it is a good fit.

“This is a unique moment in time where we can really, finally see if St. Louis is MLS-ready,” Garber said Thursday after meeting in the league’s New York City office with Dave Peacock, the former president of Anheuser-Busch, co-chairman of Gov. Jay Nixon’s NFL stadium task force.

MLS has grown rapidly since Garber took over as commissioner. It now has 20 teams after adding New York and Orlando, Florida, in 2015. Atlanta and Minnesota join the league next year and second team is planned for Los Angeles in 2018, along with a team in Miami, assuming stadium issues can be resolved.

The league wants to get to 28 teams soon thereafter. Garber said a team in St. Louis could start as soon as 2020.

The league is also looking at Sacramento, California, San Diego, San Antonio and Detroit.

Garber called St. Louis “a great soccer market.” The problem has been in pinning down local owners and finding the right stadium site.

Garber said the Mississippi River location remains compelling, though he acknowledged securing taxpayer support could be a challenge.

“I’m very intrigued about being adjacent to one of America’s great national treasures and being a part of what we’ve heard is a major revitalization of the riverfront,” he said. “That would give our club the opportunity to be a really deeply connected, important part of the community.”

Garber has spoken by phone with Gov. Jay Nixon, who called talks with the commissioner “productive.” Garber also exchanged letters with Mayor Francis Slay.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do as it relates to determining a stadium solution, and figuring out who ultimately can be the owner of the team,” Garber said. “But, overall, we’re very focused on St. Louis as a potential expansion market.”


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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