St. Louis has renewed its push for a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise. With the potential of having a team, many players and coaches among Webster University are optimistic about what it could mean for the future.
After an initial plan calling for millions in city support was denied by voters last year, two prominent families have answered the prayers of many St. Louis soccer fans. The Taylor and Kavanaugh families of St. Louis-based Enterprise Holdings and World Wide Technology will provide private funding for the franchise and a new stadium.
Neither company is involved in the proposal.
If St. Louis is granted an MLS franchise, semi-pro St. Louis FC becomes a developmental club, according to the Post-Dispatch. St. Louis FC shares their practice space, World Wide Technology Soccer Park, with Webster University.
According to MLS4TheLou, there are more than 50,000 youth players in St. Louis and over 4,000 youth teams in the metro area. One of those players is sophomore Sports Communication major and Gorlok men’s soccer forward Matthew Ceriotti. Ceriotti said that a prospect of having a team gives him inspiration to push his game to the next level.
“No division three player has made STL FC. However, knowing that I have the possibility of playing for an MLS team, it makes me want to go and kick the ball around outside every single day,” Ceriotti said. “It inspires me, and I hope it inspires my teammates to work even harder to have the possibility of going pro.”
The next obstacle for the would-be ownership, the first majority female group in MLS history, is the development of a new venue. Fox 2 reported earlier this month the overall cost for the franchise and stadium is roughly $400 million.
The planned stadium site is currently state-owned land south of Market Street, west of 20th Street and north of I-64 in the western part of downtown according to MLS4TheLou. The site is preferred due to its size, underdevelopment and access to mass transit. The area is undergoing an $8 billion redevelopment.
Those behind the success of Gorlok soccer hope an MLS team will attract even more talent from all around the world to come to Webster.
Men’s soccer head coach Michael Siener said that he believed an MLS team in St. Louis would help the team’s process in finding new players.
“Having the USL team (St. Louis FC) and stadium definitely adds to aid in the recruitment of local and national talent,” Siener said. “The current situation has helped us land players from Florida, Hawaii, Arizona, Texas, etc. Adding an MLS team here can only help.”
Moreover, St. Louis would once again gain a third pro sports franchise since the NFL’s Rams returned to Los Angeles in 2015, ending a 20-year history with “The Gateway City.”
David Lange, an adjunct professor and author of “Soccer Made in St. Louis: A History of the Game in America’s First Soccer Capital”, said soccer’s emergence among the teen demographic would aid in drawing interest for games and support.
“The issue with soccer up until about ten years ago was that it wasn’t really a top-of-mind sport in the United States. For a long time it was baseball and then in the 1960s football took over,” Lange said. “If you look at the marketing research done in the last five to ten years, soccer has become the number one or number two sport in the 12-29 age group. That’s come about because there are more soccer games on television.
Lange also said the awareness has helped to create people who are interested in soccer much more than they were in the past on a national level.
The MLS hopes to expand from 23 teams to 28 and is also considering Detroit, Sacramento and San Diego as possible expansion cities. The Taylor-Kavanaugh ownership group hope to have a team in St. Louis by 2022.