NEW YORK: Major League Soccer has finally confirmed that an expansion franchise in St Louis will join the league in 2022.

The announcement, which has been rumoured for several weeks, will see the franchise pay a US$200 million expansion fee to become the premier North American soccer league’s 28th club. They will play their home games at a new 22,500-seater stadium in the downtown west district of St Louis, which will be built mostly with private funds.

Led by members of the Taylor family, the founders of car rental company Enterprise, the St Louis franchise will be the first in MLS to have a majority female ownership group.

The Missouri city’s expansion bid, known as MLS4TheLou, was fronted by Carolyn Kindle Betz, President of Enterprise Holdings Foundation, and World Wide Technology Chief Executive Jim Kavanaugh. The ownership group also comprises six other female members of the Taylor family.

“Our ownership group has come a long way since we first announced our bid last October at Mathews-Dickey Boys and Girls Club, and it’s an incredible feeling to now be able to say, St Louis is home to the first official majority female-led ownership group in MLS,” said Betz.

“Our MLS team and stadium will only add to St Louis’ renaissance currently underway and will provide us with a great opportunity to bring together many different segments of the community, uniting people in their love for the game.”

St Louis has been expected to land an MLS expansion slot since the league confirmed in April that it had entered exclusive negotiations with the city’s ownership group and that of Sacramento.

The addition of an MLS team means St Louis now regains a third major league franchise after losing the National Football League’s Rams to Los Angeles in 2016. The new soccer outfit join National Hockey League (NHL) champions the Blues and Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Cardinals .

“It is with great pride that we welcome St Louis to Major League Soccer,” added MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “St Louis is a city with a rich soccer tradition, and it is a market we have considered since the league’s inception.

“Our league becomes stronger today with the addition of the city’s deeply dedicated soccer fans, and the committed and innovative local ownership group led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, the Taylor family, and Jim Kavanaugh.”

MLS currently has 24 clubs, with franchises in Miami and Nashville set to join the league next season, while an expansion team in Austin has been confirmed for 2021.

The confirmation of a St Louis team leaves two slots available after MLS amended its expansion target from 28 to 30 teams earlier this year.

Sacramento remains a strong candidate to land an expansion franchise, while Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper recently announced plans to build a new stadium that would house both his National Football League (NFL) team and a new MLS outfit.


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