After a four-year absence, professional soccer is finally returning to St. Louis, one of the game's ancestral homes in North America.
USL PRO announced on Thursday that it has awarded an expansion franchise for the 2015 season to the Missouri soccer hotbed, marking the third-division league's third newcomer for next year.
The new, as-yet-unnamed club will be operated by longtime St. Louis business executive and former professional player Jim Kavanaugh in partnership with St. Louis Scott Gallagher, a tradition-rich youth club with a list of alumni that includes former and current MLS stars Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Chris Klein, Brad Davis and Jack Jewsbury.
“We are thrilled to welcome St. Louis into USL PRO,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. “St. Louis, more than any other US city, has significantly contributed to the development and growth of American soccer on all levels – youth, collegiate and professional.
“Through the years, St. Louis players, coaches and soccer executives have greatly impacted not only the game of soccer, but the history of American soccer itself.”
St. Louis has been a hotbed for the beautiful game for more than a century. Many of the players on the legendary 1950 US World Cup team hailed from the city, including Harry Keough, Frank Borghi and Charlie Colombo.
The St. Louis USL PRO franchise will compete at the 5,000-seat Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo., and will be led by head coach Dale Schilly, who has nearly 30 years of coaching experience at every level.
“The St. Louis area has waited patiently for the return of professional outdoor soccer,” Schilly said. “It has been gratifying to watch the professional game blossom across the country, yet frustrating for the St. Louis soccer community to not be a part of the growth on the professional level.
“With the new agreement in place between the MLS and USL PRO, there could not be a better time for St. Louis to be a part of the enthusiasm and passion that comes with this great sport.”
St. Louis last hosted a pro team in 2010, when AC St. Louis competed in the NASL Conference of the USSF D2 Pro League, a US Soccer-managed second-division league, before shutting down due to financial issues the following year. The same ownership group also operated St. Louis Athletica, a women's pro team which suffered a similar fate.