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Group hoping to bring MLS to St

It’s been more than five months since the NFL approved the Rams leaving for Los Angeles, an event that served as the impetus for a renewed push to bring another team in another sport, Major League Soccer, to St. Louis. cheap jerseys It’s been more than four months since a group of prominent local businessmen and sports executives formed a group, MLS2STL, to coordinate the search for an ownership group to bring a team here.

While groups in other cities have made splashes with well funded owners announcing interest in an MLS team, there hasn’t been much news on the St. Louis front. But within the group working to bring a team here, optimism continues.

“I wouldn’t take the lack of fireworks to be misunderstood as a lack of activity,” said Jim Woodcock, global sports co lead and senior vice president at FleishmanHillard, who is a member and spokesman for MLS2STL. “We’ve had a lot of discussions, a lot of progress. There’s a long, long way to go but the arrows are pointing positively. We hope that will continue in the short term,.”

MLS2STL is not an ownership group, but was set up to facilitate a potential owner who had interest in bringing a team here, while also giving the league someone to go to when it received inquiries about a team.

While no announcement is imminent on potential owners or an ownership group, Woodcock said there have been discussions with a “very strong, viable candidate. That doesn’t discount the potential of other candidates coming forward or groups coming back stronger.”

The potential owner has met with MLS officials, but the discussions haven’t gotten to the point where anyone involved wants to go public.

“This particular ownership candidate is still in a period of due diligence,” Woodcock said. “There’s no timetable for this candidate or any candidate. . This particular ownership candidate is very financially viable, has a strong personal and professional interest. One thing that’s fair to say is this particular candidate has connections with other league owners in Major League Soccer and has some professional sports experience.

“We’re keeping the league up to date. Everything to this point is very encouraging. It wouldn’t be the wisest move to prematurely, for this candidate or anyone, get something out for keeping pace with other cities.”

While the MLS2STL group has had some discussions on stadium sites, the big push in that direction (and important discussions of how that stadium will be paid for) probably won’t happen until after the potential owners are determined. And while there has been talk of a major development project in Maryland Heights by Rams owner Stan Kroenke that would possibly include an MLS stadium, the league’s strongly stated preference and the plans of MLS2STL is for a stadium downtown, though not necessarily at the same location as the proposed NFL stadium.

In April, MLS Commissioner Don Garber listed Sacramento and St. Louis as the frontrunners for expansion, which is expected to take place no sooner than 2020. (While the league has stated its plans to expand to 28 teams, it has yet to give a timetable for doing it.) Sacramento, with a wildly successful USL team, wealthy ownership and a stadium plan in place, is all but a lock.

St. Louis fills a very real need for the league. In addition to St. Louis’ strong soccer tradition, a team here would also be a boon for the franchises in Kansas City and Chicago, which could really use a rival that’s in driving distance, and the league sees the absence of the NFL as another plus. Still, it will come at a steep price. The expansion fee is likely to be in the neighborhood of $100 million, plus whatever costs are involved in stadium construction.

The league currently has 20 teams and has four teams in the queue ready to start: Atlanta will begin play in 2017, Los Angeles FC, the second LA team, in 2018, and Minnesota and Miami at an unspecified date while stadium issues are finalized.

Meanwhile, the competition for one of the next set of spots has grown. Whereas before it was Sacramento and St. Louis and everyone else, the list of contenders now includes Detroit, San Antonio and, just last week, San Diego. All of the contenders have to be taken seriously because of their financial backing.

On April 27, Garber was in Detroit when Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, announced in conjunction with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores a $1 billion proposal for an MLS team and a multi use stadium downtown. Detroit’s efforts hinge on the approval of the downtown construction project.

Last week, a group in San Diego, which includes the lead investor in the San Diego Padres, said it was interested in an MLS team that would share a stadium with the San Diego State football team. While San Diego has many attributes that would make it an attractive market for soccer a soccer hotbed in a large city with a strong Hispanic population it has one thing working against it: a successful Mexican league team just three miles over the border in Tijuana that would probably siphon off a large number of potential fans.

San Antonio’s hopes have been bolstered by Spurs Sports and Entertainment, owners of the NBA Spurs, starting a USL team with the stated intention of having an MLS team within six years. The Spurs are seen as one of the most stable and well run organizations in sports, which makes it an appealing ownership group for the league.