MLS2STL: St. Louis business, sports leaders unite to attract Major League Soccer

St. Louis skyline

St. Louis took another step toward Major League Soccer on Wednesday, when it was announced that a group of the city’s business and sports leaders have formed the MLS2STL Group to explore and advance the city’s candidacy to be awarded an MLS expansion team.

The group includes Dave Peacock, chairman of the board of directors for the St. Louis Sports Commission and former president of Anheuser-Busch, Jim Kavanaugh, owner of USL club St. Louis FC, and Bill DeWitt III, president of Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, among others.

According to a statement released by the group, MLS2STL will “work closely with the staff and select members of the St. Louis Sports Commission to conduct baseline market assessments for a potential team owner or owners, including the exploration of stadium sites, funding options and overall viability of the St. Louis region as a home to an MLS expansion franchise.”

MLS is scheduled to expand to 24 teams in the near future, and will welcome Atlanta (2017), Minnesota (2017 or 2018), LAFC (2018) and a Miami franchise (date undermined) in the next few years. The league announced in December that it plans to eventually grow to 28 teams, and Commissioner Don Garber has mentioned St. Louis as a candidate for that round of expansion.

“We know St. Louis is a tremendous soccer market and are pleased to see many prominent business and sports leaders becoming involved in the efforts to bring a Major League Soccer team to the downtown area,” Garber said, in a statement released by the MLS2STL Group. “We look forward to working with the group to further evaluate St. Louis and see if it is ready for an MLS expansion team.”

St. Louis’ campaign for an MLS team has rapidly built momentum since the NFL relocated the Rams to Los Angeles last month. Garber told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this month that he was “very excited” by the prospect of having a club play downtown on the Mississippi River riverfront, the proposed site of a Rams stadium before the team left for California.

The full list of group members, in alphabetical order:

Bill DeWitt III
President, St. Louis Cardinals

Rob Ebert
Partner, Bryan Cave

Jim Kavanaugh
Co-Founder & CEO, World Wide Technology and Investor/owner of St. Louis Football Club of the United Soccer League and the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League

Vicky Lynch
Consultant, Lynch Sports and Events

Bob O’Loughlin
President, Lodging Hospitality Management

Dave Peacock
Chairman of the board of directors of the St. Louis Sports Commission and former president of Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

Jim Powers
President, UniGroup

Jim Woodcock
Senior Vice President and Partner, Global Sports Co-lead, FleishmanHillard

Chris Zimmerman
President and CEO of Scottrade Center, Peabody Opera House and the St Louis Blues