St. Louis City SC building a new path for expansion teams in Major League Soccer

New York, New York— Major League Soccer has long been a league defined by eras. As St. Louis City SC prepare to enter the fray as the league’s latest expansion club, the league’s 29th team, changes are happening too quickly to be divided into separate eras. And City SC wants to break the mold of what an expansion club should look like.

Led by Carolyn Kindle and the league’s first female owner group, St. Louis hopes to bring a strong product to the field while keeping the community at large in mind given its rich football history that dates back to the late 1800s. However, USL most recently had the St. Louis Football Club until 2020 after the club closed due to COVID. The arrival of the MLS in the city brings new hope and Kindle appears to be on the right track with 60,000 season ticket deposits before they hit the field.

This is not the first group of owners trying to introduce MLS to St. Louis, but thanks to Kindle’s business expertise and unique local connections as president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, she was able to put together a successful franchise bid in the city. . This uniqueness will also translate into the gaming experience, as Kindle has hired the league’s first Director of Experience.

“We wanted to provide the best possible fan experience when you come to the venue, whether it’s matchday, matchday or non-matchday,” Kindle said during the kick-off panel. “The opportunity to hire someone who could oversee not only how you create that experience, but also how you implement technology that has become what everyone expects was, in our opinion, the most effective and in the same time in the most far-sighted way to deal with it.”

The ability to ensure that everyone who travels to the stadium is important, but equally important is the product on the pitch, is another area that makes this club unique. As the first expansion club to play in the MLS Next Pro prior to their first league season, St. Louis was able to develop an on-field cohesion that would help head coach Bradley Carnell when his team faced Austin in their first MLS game. .

Expansion clubs’ performance can be mixed as everyone aims to be as successful as Atlanta United once was in their first year. But the reality is that there is always a chance of being bottom of the table for the first few seasons. – very similar to FC Cincinnati or Minnesota United. Proper use of Next Pro can help avoid this. If things go well, St. Louis will be able to blaze a path that the No. 30 Expansion Team will no doubt follow.

“It was great to work with them. As soon as I left Toronto and joined Next Pro in December, [St. Louis] was one of the first encounters I had when I met Carolyn [Kindle] and a group of owners,” said former MLS player Ali Curtis, who is now MLS Next Pro Senior Vice President of Competitions and Operations.

“I think there are advantages and opportunities for those clubs that come into MLS to start in MLS Next Pro. clubs benefit from this. Teaching the players in your system, in your market, to what’s going on, to the style of the game. So in that sense, I think it’s great and I think St. Louis has taken full advantage of the platform.”

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The Next Pro experience also helped St. Louis connect with the community, which is critical to the Kindle concept. Mill Creek Valley, the predominantly black area where the club is located, was razed to the ground in the 1950s due to political tensions. Kindle and the club decided to honor the past by bringing in local artist Damon Davis. build the Pillars of the Valley monument.

By displaying the names and quotes of the area’s residents, the monument will help educate people about the area’s history, as well as show the club’s connection to the past as they try to help create the area’s future. Kindle understands that the only way to come to the area as a sports team is to listen to the residents who are currently in the area.

“What we’re hearing is a lot of people saying, ‘I didn’t even know the history of Mill Creek Valley.’ Even my parents’ generation, I remember driving past this area, but I didn’t know its history,” Kindle said. “So we use this as a way to bring the community together and educate them, but also understand that there are complex issues from the past that we need to acknowledge and that we need to be able to start conversations more openly and comfortably than usual.”

If the club can continue to work with the community without forgetting the past, this could be the start of a great partnership. The main thing is to maintain this focus. Many teams came up with high promises that fell short, and St. Louis SC doesn’t want to be in the same boat. For example, New York City hasn’t had a real home since joining the league, playing at home at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees had no more pressing priorities. To finally secure the stadium, they’ll have to leave the Bronx for a house in Queens. Members of the Philadelphia Union also saw how difficult it was to fulfill these obligations. waterfront complex along the Delaware River in Chester It took 13 years to become a reality.

The Kindle and the club have a long way to go here, but with results on the pitch and the community engaging in a great experience, there is a foundation for success in MLS. A success that can help break the mold of what the extension looks like.

Louis heads to Austin for their first game ahead of their Citipark debut against Charlotte on March 4.


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