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#MLS4THELOU makes pitch to league expansion committee

St. Louis is one step closer to an MLS decision.

St. Louis is one step closer to knowing whether it will be awarded a Major League Soccer franchise. #MLS4THELOU, the ownership group leading St. Louis’ bid for a team, on Monday met with the professional soccer league’s expansion committee in New York. 

The ownership group said in a statement it made its pitch for an expansion team during a three-hour meeting, emphasizing to the committee the strength of its majority female-led group, St. Louis’ commitment to sports, its plans for a mostly privately funded soccer stadium and business commitment to corporate sponsorships.   

St. Louis' XFL team has continued to bolster its staff with new hires, including the addition of a former St. Louis Rams player.

“First, we want to thank Major League Soccer and the Expansion Committee for the opportunity to share our ownership group’s vision for an MLS team in St. Louis,” Carolyn Kindle Betz, leader of the St. Louis ownership group and president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, said in a statement. “We’re confident our proposal puts St. Louis in the best position to bring MLS to America’s first soccer capital.”

Monday’s meeting follows a decision in April by the MLS board of governors to expand the league to 30 teams, beyond its previous target of 28 clubs, authorizing the league to work exclusively with the ownership groups in St. Louis and Sacramento for teams 28 and 29. At the time, MLS said the ownership groups from both St. Louis and Sacramento would be asked to make formal presentations before the league’s expansion committee.

While the Cardinals may be sagging in the Major League Baseball standings, they are near the top of the pack in overall home attendance so far in the 2019 season.

In a statement, MLS said it "had a productive meeting with the St. Louis group" on Monday, and that it expects to "meet again soon" with the Sacramento ownership group.

It’s unclear when MLS plans to announce which cities will be awarded teams 28 and 29. MLS Commissioner Don Garber previously said the league hopes to have a final decision on teams 28 and 29 made before the league’s All-Star Game at the end of this month. The league said Monday that the ownership groups from St. Louis and Sacramento, along with those backing expansion bids in other cities, are planning to attend MLS' All-Star week events in Orlando.

If awarded as either MLS team 28 or 29, #MLS4THELOU will pay a franchise fee of $200 million. The ownership group’s plans include a stadium just west of Union Station that would have capacity of approximately 22,500 with the ability to expand to 25,500 and be surrounded by a Downtown West District with mixed-use retail, restaurants and gathering spaces, according to renderings released in April. 

The St. Louis Cardinals' local television ratings on Fox Sports Midwest are near the top of the pack in Major League Baseball, but are down year-over-year amid the midway point of the season.

The proposed stadium will be mostly privately financed, but the ownership group is seeking tax incentives including three special taxing districts, abatements on an amusement tax, property taxes and sales taxes on construction materials to help fund the facility.