St. Louis was awarded a Major League Soccer expansion franchise Tuesday, but the announcement should do little to deter the two Las Vegas groups competing for a team.
St. Louis will become MLS’ 28th club when it begins play in 2022. The league intends to expand to 30 teams, and The Renaissance Companies Inc., backed by billionaire Seth Klarman, is working with Las Vegas officials to build a new soccer-specific stadium downtown and lure a franchise. Golden Knights owner Bill Foley also is pursuing an expansion team.
St. Louis, which has been a youth soccer hotbed for decades, was long considered a favorite for an expansion franchise. Commissioner Don Garber said in April that MLS would have “exclusive formal discussions” with St. Louis about team No. 28. He also said on Fox Sports 1 before the MLS All-Star Game on July 31 that the league was in “advanced” discussions with the city’s potential ownership group, which will become the first female majority-owned team in MLS history.
Representatives from The Renaissance Companies Inc. were at the All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida, along with delegations from St. Louis; Sacramento, California; Charlotte, North Carolina; and other expansion markets. ESPN reported Indianapolis, San Diego, Phoenix and Raleigh, North Carolina, also had officials in Orlando.
Knights officials were invited to the event but were unable to attend. Knights president Kerry Bubolz said on the Review-Journal’s Golden Edge podcast Aug. 13 that the team is still interested in an expansion franchise.
“We’re in the mix,” Bubolz said. “We know that, and we’re going to continue that effort.”
Both local bids will be especially challenged by Sacramento and Charlotte. Sacramento has long pursued a franchise, and its United Soccer League Championship team, Sacramento Republic FC, has ranked in the top three in attendance the last six seasons. Charlotte is a newer entry to the race, but it brings deep pockets, as potential owner David Tepper, who owns the Carolina Panthers, is the richest owner in the NFL with a net worth of $11.6 billion.