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MLS Commissioner Don Garber meets with St. Louis officials to discuss future expansion

MLS Commissioner Don Garber met with public officials and business leaders who are heading up an open-air stadium project in downtown St. Louis, Mo., on Tuesday to discuss the possibilities of expanding to what he called “a great soccer market.”

Garber flew to St. Louis from Los Angeles, where he was on hand for the unveiling of LAFC’s new stadium project, and met with, among others, Gov. Jay Nixon, Mayor Francis Slay, talked “at length” with Dave Peacock, who co-leads Nixon’s stadium task force, and met with the architects designing the proposed $985 million stadium.

“This is a city that just loves the sport, and has so many people committed to it,” Garber told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We really hope to be able to work with them.”

In January, Nixon’s stadium taskforce announced plans for a new, 64,000-seat facility on the banks of the Mississippi River in the hopes of preventing the city’s NFL franchise, the St. Louis Rams, from moving. They expanded their plans for the stadium to be home to an MLS team and released renderings (above) ahead of Tuesday's meetings.

St. Louis has a long, storied soccer history, including being the hometown of many professional and US World Cup players, including Brad Davis, Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Mike Sorber, and many of the players on the legendary 1950 team that upset England, 1-0.

“This is a soccer town," Garber told the media on Tuesday. "We’ve never been able to even think hard about a real opportunity to be here. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get here. But we think that there’s a possibility. And that’s really what today’s all about. It’s our first fact-finding mission.”

The Post-Dispatch reported that Garber cautioned that any expansion to St. Louis wouldn’t happen before 2020, but the commissioner told the media that the city checks many of the boxes for being a potential expansion market.

“Right now, we know there are three things that matter: A strong, passionate soccer city – this certainly is. A great stadium plan – there’s an interesting one being developed. And I think there will be no shortage of people who will be interested in owning a team,” Garber said.

The St. Louis task force is reportedly currently finalizing the financing plan for the stadium.

“To be very clear, this is an opportunity for us to learn more about what’s happening here in St. Louis as it relates to their great stadium project,” Garber said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “And meeting with the political folks and city leaders who have done, I think, such a terrific job in rallying people together behind a great urban redevelopment concept.”

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