Major League Soccer exploring opportunities in St. Louis, but is the city really ready to move forward?

There could be an MLS team in the North Riverfront region (Photo / Google Maps).

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Major League Soccer is keen to explore ways to build a team in St. Louis as the league plans to grow from 20 to 28 teams by 2020. MLS Commissioner Don Garber stands ready to look into the potential of downtown stadium locations (i.e. the area proposed for the new Rams Stadium) as well as investors and owners.

Garber made no promises that St. Louis would get a franchise, but told the newspaper, “This is a unique moment in a time when we can really finally see if St. Louis is MLS-ready.”

That’s my biggest question. Is St. Louis ready to return to a different professional sports relationship?

Gov. Jay Nixon’s task force set out early in its vision for the stadium on the North Riverfront that the stadium could host football events. Garber visited the task force in May 2015 to hear ideas. Now that the Rams are out of the picture, the site could be exclusive to an MLS team.

A few weeks ago, an architectural firm in St. Louis presented plans for a football stadium south of Union Station on Clark Street. Garber said MLS prefers downtown locations and hasn’t looked at other locations.

How much of this is the MLS proactive, and how much of it is the city of St. Louis and the citizens trying to recover from a bad breakup? Maybe more of the latter and there are three key pieces that will play a role in it … fans, possessions, and a stadium.

“Nobody argues that St. Louis isn’t a great football market,” Garber said. “It has a passionate fan base and a great football history.”

There is undoubtedly a following for football. A qualifying game for the USA World Cup took place at the Busch Stadium in November, and was attended by 43,000 fans. Back in May 2013, two of England’s most famous Premier League clubs, Chelsea and Manchester City, hosted an exhibition game at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis currently has no owner and oh yeah … no fixed stadium plan either.

Before you get upset about thinking football is coming to St. Louis, consider how that likely played out. I guess just like a relationship breakup.

-The Rams and the NFL pull up to the curb of St. Louis and move to LA
-St. The citizens of Louis have hurt their ego and are desperate to build a stadium and form some kind of team
– Those on the rebound call MLS ‘Garber and say, come on, look at us again.
-Garber agrees to meet the deadline, but does not offer a long-term commitment. He needs to see more of St. Louis.

Garber does his due diligence for the league, but the fact is that MLS has several other cities that have shown interest in creating an expansion team. MLS will add four more teams over the next few years: Atlanta and Minnesota in 2017, a second team in Los Angeles in 2018, and a possible team in Miami where soccer star David Beckham is trying to solve problems. Garber said the league is also looking at Sacramento, San Diego, San Antonio and Detroit.

That leaves St. Louis in a group of five cities vying for four places.

Garber and the league would be counting on the public to raise some money to build the stadium. If St. Louis got a team by 2020, there would be five years of payments left on the dome.

Perhaps Governor Nixon, Peacock, and Mayor Francis Slay believe the time is right and hope that the citizens of St. Louis, who are still on the verge of losing a team, join this relaxing relationship and support the plan.

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