SC STL, the ownership group that is bidding to bring a Major League Soccer expansion franchise to St. Louis, held preliminary discussions with US Soccer earlier this week to learn more about NWSL. The group appears to be prepared to pursue an NWSL club as a companion club to an MLS side.
“If our group were to operate an NWSL expansion team, we feel strongly that the team must play downtown in the new stadium along with a companion Major League Soccer team that we hope to be awarded later this year,” Jim Kavanaugh, vice chair of SC STL, said in a press release.
There is a catch though. The group’s stadium deal is dependent on the passing of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 next Tuesday. Proposition 1 calls for a .5% raise in sales tax and Proposition 2 calls for tax money to be used to fund a new downtown stadium which would be due in 2020. Proposition 2 is fully dependent on Proposition 1 and will not be implemented if Proposition 1 fails.
“Without a stadium, none of it will happen,” Kavanaugh said. “But, it is fair to say that if we are successful on Tuesday, we will consider next steps as to the potential of bringing NWSL soccer to St. Louis.”
On the MLS side, St. Louis is one of a dozen cities bidding for an expansion franchise. The league is expected to add at least four new teams with two of them to be announced sometime the second half of this year.
“NWSL is proving to be both sustainable and promising,” Dan Flynn, secretary general and CEO of the United States Soccer Federation, said. “We have a number of success stories such as the Portland Thorns, who draw around 16,000 fans per game, and a new television deal and equity partner with A+E Networks. Recalling that our U.S. Women’s national team drew 35,000 fans to downtown St. Louis two years ago, I think an NWSL team in St. Louis would have potential for success in the new stadium.”
St. Louis dabbled in women’s professional soccer before. Saint Louis Athletica was a founding member of WPS. The club was undone by financial ruin and was forced to pull the plug in the middle of its second season. Their demise led to a new mandate that clubs provide escrow payments to assure their ability to fund the following season. No other teams folded during a season but the league was unable to survive.
NWSL has never made any specific statements about expansion plans but outgoing commissioner Jeff Plush has been constantly bullish regarding interest levels from ownership groups around the United States and Canada.