The MLS Board of Governors, the gathering of the league’s ownership group that takes place three times a year, has given the green light for league officials to begin “exclusive, formal discussions” with ownership groups in Sacramento and St. Louis for the chance to become clubs No. 28 and No. 29 in MLS.
“The decision to grant those teams has not been made, but they are both pretty far along,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told media at a press gathering following the Board of Governors meeting in L.A. “There’s work that needs to be done in both markets.”
Both Sacramento and St. Louis have been in the expansion mix for several years and both bids saw recent changes in their respective ownership groups that have injected renewed hope. The new investors will have the opportunity to formally meet with the league’s Expansion Committee for the first time in the weeks to come to state their case and satisfy a checklist of areas that is required for expansion consideration.
“They need to finalize their corporate sponsorship support and they need to finalize their stadium plan,” Commissioner Garber said about the Sacramento bid featuring lead investor billionaire financier Ron Burkle. “They have ownership of the land, but they have a handful of outstanding issues that they need to work on.
“We need to work with them on what their training player development plan is,” the Commissioner continued. “They’re not far enough along there, but I know that they’ve been making progress. Those are three things that I would put on the list.”
The Movement - Season 1, Episode 7: Sacramento's Quest for MLS
Similar to Sacramento, MLS officials had concerns about the level of corporate support behind the St. Louis bid, according to the Commissioner. But he said the current ownership group, led by Andy Taylor and Carolyn Kindle Betz of Enterprise Holdings and Jim Kavanaugh, CEO of World Wide Technology, has since engaged with key corporate leaders and they are working toward final commitments on stadium naming rights and jersey sponsorship.
On the stadium front, the Commissioner also pointed to work that needs to be done with the city and state to move the project forward.
“We need to finalize the stadium situation there,” Garber said. “They’re further along with their stadium plan in Sacramento than they are in St. Louis. They have work to do with the city, they have work to do with the state. And we’re hoping and expecting that Jim Kavanaugh and the Taylors will sit down with the city and state leaders to get that finalized so that when they come to meet with the league it’s signed, sealed and delivered.”
Whether each bid can get over the finish line remains to be seen, but in any event, the league looks to make a final decision on teams No. 28 and No. 29 before the July 31 All-Star Game, presented by Target. Both expansion teams could kick off as early as 2021 or 2022, according to the Commissioner.
“We hope and expect we’ll get where we need to get to so we can get both of them done,” he concluded.