MLS to St. Louis: Sorry about your football team, you know we play “football” too, right?

It’s official: With the St. Louis Rams gone, every other sport in town (or not in town) is hoping to grab a piece of that $477 million in public stadium money that the NFL team turned down. Just ten days after the Rams announced their move to Los Angeles, MLS commissioner Don Garber sent a letter to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon expressing his sympathies and offering to provide St. Louis fans with some kind of football, anyway:

Garber in his letter, dated Friday, said he was surprised and disappointed at the Rams’ departure and “in the wake of recent developments” wanted to reaffirm his commitment to considering St. Louis as an expansion city.

“I look forward to working with you, your staff and local leaders to explore ownership candidates and to investigate viable stadium solutions to bring MLS to St. Louis,” Garber said in the letter.

Yeah, like Missourians are going to accept a whole different sport as a substitute for anoth —

A Florissant lawmaker who earlier offered up a sales tax financing plan for a new riverfront football stadium is now saying a similar idea could be used to bankroll a new soccer stadium in St. Louis.

State Rep. Keith English has introduced legislation that would put a tax of not more than one-tenth of one percent on the ballot in St. Louis and St. Louis County. A green light from voters could generate between $10 million and $15 million annually, he said.

Note that this plan would have to go before city and county voters, so would almost certainly fail, especially given that nobody thought a similar Rams vote could pass, and some people actually already liked the Rams. Still, mute those cheers that by losing the Rams St. Louis has at least saved $477 million — there are plenty of other sports leagues lining up for a shot at it. How long before the Cardinals‘ stadium is 20 years old?

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16 comments on “MLS to St. Louis: Sorry about your football team, you know we play “football” too, right?

  1. From a Missouri resident from the other side of the state, this RSA thing is ridiculous. The Riverfront Stadium would have been built with most of the public funds coming from the state, which would have been unfair for people from Kansas City when we paid for our own stadium renovations with minimal state funds. But now it’s the other way around, where Kansas City representatives would vote on whether or not people in St. Louis can vote on funding.

    Once the Edward Jones Dome is paid off, the RSA should be abolished and St. Louis can control their own stadium issues.

  2. Normally I’d say soccer should be played outdoors, but St. Louis, in the summer. It might be nice to watch soccer in an air conditioned dome, that already exists, and still has 10 years worth of payments due.

  3. Neil, I love your work, but you are dead wrong on this one. St. Louis is a soccer mecca and would much rather have an MLS side than the Rams. If the Rams had stayed and an MLS side came, the Rams would have instantly dropped to fourth on St. Louis’ pecking order, sixth if you count Missouri and Illinois sports.

  4. I have nothing wrong with St. Louis getting soccer, and I’m sure soccer fans there would be thrilled with a team. But proposing soccer as a replacement for the football with the shoulder pads and brain injuries makes no sense at all — why wait to reach out until now, unless Garber is thinking, “Hey, you have a bunch of money sitting around now, why not give some of it to us?” (SPOILER: That is exactly what he is thinking.)

  5. Really, there’s no reason every American city with more than 500,000 people shouldn’t have an MLS team. Exceptions available for cities below 500,000.

  6. Well, not to take you seriously GDub but, by Wikipedia, the cutoff for cities with 500K or more people is at 34, which is just above where the other leagues are (NFL: 32 teams; MLB, NHL, NBA: 30 teams). So in theory it’s not a completely ridiculous statement if Garber aims to get close to those leagues in size.

    Practically speaking, with a few cities well below the cutoff already having teams, it’s not gonna happen.

  7. The English Football League (including the Premier League) has 92 teams in four divisions. As an American, we can’t let the English have the most at anything. So let’s go for 92 in one division.

  8. The reason is that St. Louis hasn’t had a decent owner available. Of course you’re right that Garber is thinking that there’s free money available for an MLS team, no question. Where you’re wrong is in saying that this plan will fail if it goes before voters because nobody thought the Rams vote would pass. A soccer vote has a much better chance of passing in St. Louis than a Rams vote did. Some people in St. Louis liked the Rams, more people in St. Louis like soccer. St. Louis is much like Seattle in that sense: without the promise that CenturyLink Field would be designed for soccer, the Seahawks would have moved to Anaheim in 1996 because the voters would have said no to the stadium.

  9. Okay, that’s a fair complaint, Dan. I still think it would be uphill battle – after all, the reason the voter laws were put in place in the first place ia because people were mad about the Cardinals gettig money with no vote, and the Cards are more popular than anyone – but a different sport and different price tag will change the calculus some, yes.

  10. AC St. Louis.

    I think we all remember the fantastic history the franchise that was going to “show everyone” how crazy Stl was for soccer had, right?

    I mean, short, obviously. But utterly fantastic.

  11. GDub: We cannot allow a professional club (or mine shaft) gap! I say, make it an even hundred teams in the first division. That still leaves thousands of cities and towns in the market for a second division team when MLS2 is finally rolled out….

  12. AC St Louis’ failure has more to do with its ownership not having the finances. There’s a reason MLS turned down Cooper despite the apparent approval of Collinsville. He was a pretender.

    Besides, poor minor league soccer attendance is not a meaningful predictor of MLS success. Toronto Lynx had one of the worst attendances in modern D2 history and Toronto FC was the team that invigorated MLS before Seattle Sounders. The current USL club is near the top of attendance charts, averaging nearly 5k.

  13. If you’re going to have a gazillion MLS franchise, St. Louis should totally have one.

    On the other hand, if you’re going to have a gazillion MLS franchises, St. Louis doesn’t have to pay to build a stadium for one, because eventually they’re going to get a team regardless.

  14. Sasha: I agree that poor USL (or other) attendance is not an indicator of a lack of MLS support. Neither is poor (or great) USL attendance an indicator of terrific MLS support.

    Ergo, the fact that St. Louis does have soccer history (mostly distant) is irrelevant.

    Toronto did indeed reinvigorate the market for MLS expansion (before Seattle, and that Beckham fellow). But if you look at the number of people in the seats today as opposed to then, they are hardly a flagship franchise… and the number in the stadium has in recent years been little more than half the announced attendance. Perhaps all those empty seats were sold, perhaps not…

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