The MLS-to-St. Louis momentum continued to build on Thursday, with MLS commissioner Don Garber telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that this is a "unique moment in time" to evaluate the city's readiness for a potential expansion franchise.
Garber told the newspaper that he was “very excited” by the prospect of having a club play on downtown St. Louis’ Mississippi River riverfront – the proposed site of an NFL stadium until the Rams left for Los Angeles last month.
A St. Louis team could begin playing in MLS as soon as 2020, and Garber said MLS would begin meeting with potential owners and that multiple local individuals and civic leaders have contacted him about a potential expansion team since the Rams' announcement.
On Thursday, at MLS’s New York City offices, Garber met with Dave Peacock, the former president of Anheuser-Busch, co-chairman of Gov. Nixon’s NFL Stadium Task Force and chairman of the St. Louis Sports Commission.
According to the report, the commissioner made no promises that MLS would move to St. Louis, but indicated that now is the time to evaluate whether expanding into the city is a viable option.
“This is a unique moment in time where we can really, finally see if St. Louis is MLS-ready,” he said.
A longtime US soccer hotbed, St. Louis has repeatedly been mentioned as a potential destination for MLS. Interest in the city's potential has grown since the Rams' exit, with Garber speaking on the phone with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon last Friday and trading letters with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay last week.
“We are very excited about the possibilities in St. Louis. We believe it’s MLS-ready,” Garber told the Post-Dispatch. “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. But, overall, we’re very focused on St. Louis as a potential expansion market.”
MLS has stated that they intend to expand from 20 to 24 teams by 2020. Atlanta United FC will join the league in 2017, Minnesota United FC will move up from NASL by 2018, LAFC is set for their expansion season in 2018 and David Beckham’s Miami franchise is scheduled to launch as soon as 2018.
The league announced in December that it eventually plans to expand to 28 teams. In the report, Garber also mentioned Sacramento, San Antonio, San Diego and Detroit as potential expansion markets.