Decision time is near.
Major League Soccer owners have a meeting and it is possible that the owners will get around to filling up that final expansion slot that has been out there for two years. The MLS is adding three teams in Nashville, Cincinnati and Austin but has not found a fourth city as of yet. It appears that Sacramento and St. Louis are in a head to head race in a bid to impress Commissioner Don Garber and the league owners. Both cities lost out when the league decided to expand a little more than two years ago. St. Louis voters said no to publicly funding a soccer facility and Sacramento backers could not find the right ownership group. Sacramento now has the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins majority owner Ron Burkle and Hollywood film producer Max Alvarez as backers. The Sacramento ownership is willing to build a soccer stadium with the hope that the facility will be the centerpiece of a development project in the city. Sacramento officials have offered $33 million in tax breaks and incentives. MLS officials plan is to hand out or sell a franchise for $150 million by year’s end. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants to force the owners hand and get the commitment for a franchise as soon as possible.
In St. Louis, there will be a new stadium plan and that stadium will be funded by prospective owners with perhaps some government subsidies. There are some new money people on board but Garber and the MLS owners are not ready to hand over a franchise to the city. While Garber has liked some of the moves made by St. Louis business leaders to create an ownership group there is a problem. There may not be enough local corporate support. And that is not helpful for the MLS. It’s just business, nothing personal.