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Power Hitter Joins St. Louis Bid

Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, the National League most valuable player and a native of the Dominican Republic, is backing the St. Louis bid for an MLS expansion club.

"I am very proud and excited to join the effort to bring Major League Soccer to the St. Louis area," he said in a press release issued this afternoon. "This means a lot to me and my family, as we all love soccer and we believe in MLS. Plus, this is something that will be great for our community, especially our youth. I strongly encourage St. Louis business leaders and sports fans to join me in this effort. St. Louis is an unbelievable sports town and we'll be a great city for Major League Soccer."

St. Louis Soccer United submitted a formal bid for an MLS expansion team to the league on Oct. 15. SLSU chairman Jeff Cooper, who will be at MLS Cup this weekend in Carson, Calif., said other investors with Pujols in the still-growing ownership group will be announced in the weeks ahead.

How do you think this will impact St. Louis's chances?

By Steve Goff  |  November 18, 2008; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Comments

Not at all. Vancouver or Montreal will get a team before St. Louis ever does.

Posted by: Juan-John | November 18, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

. . . and forgive the OT, but when I saw the Sports Bog headline "DC Gets Indoor Football Team," my first thought was futsal . . .

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2008/11/dc_gets_indoor_football_team.html#more

Posted by: Juan-John | November 18, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

It can't hurt -- he certainly has a few extra bucks -- but it should have about the same impact as Steve Nash. I would think an endorsement such as that would have a bigger impact in an area where the support is questionable (coughAtlantacough). If, say, John Smoltz came out and said he loved soccer, and was supporting the bid financially, I think it would generate a bigger buzz.

Did the press release say if he was contributing financially? Or just "supporting" it?

Posted by: Reignking | November 18, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Great - appreciate his enthusiasm for the game, but I find it kind of odd. He's a member of a team that a fledgling St. Louis MLS club would compete with in the summer. In fact, I think that the Cardinals are so huge in St. Louis that an MLS club would really struggle for attention (despite the fact that it's a good amateur soccer city). St. Louis is one, if not the best professional baseball cities. Also, I'm kind of surprised that a guy from the Dominican is really into soccer.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 18, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

wow..

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | November 18, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Any word from Lastings Milledge vis a vis his support of a Poplar Point SSS?

Posted by: JkR- | November 18, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

It can't hurt.

Maybe Manny Acta will line up behind the Poplar Point bid...

Posted by: fischy | November 18, 2008 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I would like to comment on kev29's post. In my opinion kev is correct. An MLS team in St. Louis will struggle even though St Louis is a city with a rich amateur soccer heritage. Even though I spent the first 18 years of my life in DC I have spent the last 3 in St. Louis. St. Louis is a huge baseball town. The newspaper(Post-Dispatch) completely ignore the NFL team an only focuses on the baseball team. This is not the reason that the MLS team will fail/struggle in St. Louis.

The reason the MLS team will struggle is because the owners want to build the stadium in Collinsville. The St Louis website boast that it is only a 10 minute drive east of St Louis. A few problems exist in the theory. The first is the no one lives in East St. Louis. East St. Louis per capita has something like the top 5 crime in the country. Most poeple who play soccer live in the West/North county areas on St. Louis County. (All three of the soccer specific parks are in these areas, Gallagher SC fields, Bush fields, and the soccer park) Of the twenty or so youth clubs in the area only 1 is established on the Illinois side.

Last time I did the drive to Collinsville it took me about an hour and 15 minutes. Sure the team will get attendance on the opening, when Beckham comes, and the odd Saturday game. But attendance will probably look like that of FC Dallas/New England. The reason that Bush Stadium (baseball)does well is because it is in the dead center of the city. It is right next to the metro station and by all four major highway intersections (64, 44, 55, 70)

Posted by: grubbsbl | November 18, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the local view grubbsbl

Posted by: Kev29 | November 18, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Say! I have an idea. They tore down the old Busch stadium. Last I heard, the plans they had for that land fell through. Now it's a huge eyesore -- a big expanse of nothing. Sounds like a good place for stadium.

Posted by: fischy | November 18, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Pujols' significance will depend in how much money he will put up for the St Louis MLS effort or how much he will help in bringing in other investors.

Overall, Dominicans are even less interested in soccer than the average American, but Pujols may be an exception or may just see MLS as a possibility to get into sports ownership.

It's nice for St Louis MLS supporters to get his backing right as he's being named MVP.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | November 18, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Grubbsbl - brings up an interesting point. No reason to place a team where it won't work regardless of the supporters. On that basis, MLS should look at moving existing low-attendance clubs to some of the higher profile bidders.

KC, for example, will never compete on an equal basis for talent because bigger name stars just don't want to go there and the club doesn'thave enough money to convince them otherwise. I suspect St. Louis would suffer from the same problem.

For both the good of the league and because money talks, MLS has to go where the long-term $$$s are. That means bigger markets. Chicago could likely take another team just as NYC can after the Bulls get a new stadium. Philly is going to be a good add as will Miami with Barca behind it. Montreal will make for a nice rivalry with Toronto and Vancouver or Portland will do the same for Seattle. Bigger markets and bigger revenue means better pay for the players and better product on the field.

My apologies to you good people in KC and St. Louis, but dems de facts

Posted by: Ruthie1 | November 18, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Well -- of course, the reason salary caps were first invented wasn't to hold down costs --- it was to create parity...to limit the impact of the natural advantages big-market teams would have. While it's hard to imagine European stars dreaming of winding up their careers in Utah or Missouri, the salary cap means that the money won't be significantly different there, as compared with DC or Boston. Now, that's not entirely true, because a popular franchise like United can get VW's money -- but it isn't necessarily the size of the market. And, all that money can't be funneled into the team, since there's only one DP.

I've been very critical of the Kansas City franchise -- thought the new stadium was a terrible idea, when the franchise could have been relocated. But, in a small stadium, the Wizards have sold out. They're at capacity -- and only a thousand less than in cavernous Arrowhead. It stands to reason that they would draw fairly well in a medium-sized SSS.

St. Louis could be even more promising -- though every post I've ever read has criticized the suburban Illinois site. I expect that MLS won't be able to resist Barca's bid, but Miami should give the league pause. There may be more money and prestige there, but it's a proven lousy sports town. I do think that Portland is probably the most promising of the cities up for consideration. I'm not sure which is the 2nd best. New York would be #1, but there was no bid. I guess I would vote for one of the Canadian cities.

Posted by: fischy | November 18, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

considering he got a $100m contract last time out (and is due for another one in 2010) and st.louis loves their cards like we love our skins it does mean a lot. nash just doesnt have the finances that pujols does.

Posted by: PindarPushkin | November 18, 2008 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I can't see Barca losing out.. it is an MLS dream come true but I can see ST Luis getting the other spot

Posted by: Shanoni | November 18, 2008 5:43 PM | Report abuse

The area that they blew up old bush stadium simply is not big enough to support a soccer stadium. It was right next to the new baseball stadium. Also, the plans to build apartments finally looks like it will go through in totality (some of the commercial plans have already been built)

There is an large area of abandoned warehouses just a few block south of the Downtown area. I personally like this area because it is on the waterfront and about 2 blocks from the casino/bar RiverFront area (I do not gamble but the area is very nice now and would help draw people to the stadium)
St. Louis soccer will work if you put the stadium in the city, anywhere else it will struggle

I think for the St. Louis firm to become serious contenders they have to address this issue. It seems that the MLS executives are afraid that St. Louis will become another KC, Dallas, New England, Colorado type team that will struggle to sustained crowds.

I also think Miami is a lock; and I would probably bet my money on the Montreal bid. Montreal has had on the field success as well as off the field success in the USL1. I cannot image the MLS will not give Canada a second team and immediately start a great rivalry.

Posted by: grubbsbl | November 18, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

The problem with St. Louis has always been investors although they have a stadium plan and are basically waiting to build.

other investors with Pujols in the still-growing ownership group will be announced in the weeks ahead.
That is the important part of it all.

Posted by: sitruc | November 18, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Never been to St. Louis, looked at the map and I swear they could squeeze a SSS into the space next to Busch Stadium. It does look a little tight, but who knows.
I don't think that the fact they have a long history of Baseball that an MLS team wouldn't flourish there. I do think that keeping the stadiums downtown is crucial and if they can't that done, it shouldn't happen.
Beautiful looking freight yards nearby:-) That's one thing that I really miss living in the DC area is no choo choo trains. The sound of freights rumbling by and their horns in close proximity to an outdoor stadium is an overlooked pleasure.
I think that it may be a good marketing tool using these sports figures to draw more attention to the growth of MLS in america.
I mean Drew Carey's drawing in the Jeopardy crowd...De La Hoya must have had some effect in Houston right?
Too bad Big Al can't change his last name, cuz even a grown man like myself can't really get over it.

Posted by: DadRyan | November 18, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Looking at Bernie Miklasz's blog post in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he seems to indicate that the St. Louis group has another significant -- albeit anonymous, for now -- investor.

http://www.stltoday.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=587947

Posted by: SportzNut21 | November 18, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

The stadium site has already been picked for a potential St. Louis team. It is in Collinsville, outside of St. Louis.

Posted by: sitruc | November 18, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Collinsville doesn't look much further than Greenbelt will be...
I said Jeopardy, and meant Price is Right...Shows how much I'm watching all that awesomeness.
I think Portland would still tie the west coast together nicely in MLS. Vancouver not so much. Who knows?

Posted by: DadRyan | November 18, 2008 10:54 PM | Report abuse

The stadium site has already been picked for a potential St. Louis team. It is in Collinsville, outside of St. Louis.

Posted by: sitruc | November 18, 2008 9:18 PM

We all knew that already. We've known it for months. I was suggesting that there might be a better site available -- one that might not have seemed available earlier...

Posted by: fischy | November 18, 2008 10:57 PM | Report abuse

The space near Busch Stadium that looks big enough for a stadium is a parking lot for Purina Headquarters so that's not a possibility (I am presuming you are looking South of the highway). Downtown is a concrete jungle to begin with, and unless you put it in North Saint Louis (No Way - Think Trinidad neighborhood in NE) there are very few good spots in Saint Louis City. And there is nowhere in the immediate vicinity of East Saint Louis/Sauget where people would be comfortable going late at night

Collinsville is much farther than you think. Around here we think nothing of making a trip from Rockville to Dulles, but in STL the same trip would be considered painfully long. Putting it in Collinsville could best be described as putting a stadium in Columbia. Its going to make it a tough trip for everyone on the other side of the river. And effectively there is only one major bridge (downtown)

A better location and boy, STL could fight with TFC and us for attendance.

I went to SLU and until the Terps got Sacho going, The Billikens soccer led the NCAA in average attendance for years because so many non-students go to the game. (There is not much else to do in STL at night other than sports and drinking)

Posted by: BBFunnyMan | November 19, 2008 12:16 AM | Report abuse

grubbsbl -

I did the same thing he did 18 in DC, 3 years hard time in STL...

Everything he said is just about spot on. Old stadium site is much smaller than your think. Parking and public transportation in downtown is a nightmare (Think having JUST the Orange line for all of Metro)

But I just thought of something that you may know of, did Washington U/Saint Louis U/U of Misouri-STL not try to go in on a stadium together? Seems like that is the only possibility of a midtown-suburbs stadium

Posted by: BBFunnyMan | November 19, 2008 12:27 AM | Report abuse

MLS needs St. Louis. Period. I don't care what you say about markets, St. Louis is so important to American soccer it should be a priority of Garber's to make sure there's a franchise there.

Posted by: Modibo | November 19, 2008 12:34 AM | Report abuse

Let me correct myself: important in the history and development of American soccer. MLS needs to keep that tradition alive by basing a franchise there.

Posted by: Modibo | November 19, 2008 12:35 AM | Report abuse

Here's a bizarre suggestion that the Miami investors might try to bump Philly from the 2010 berth:

http://www.miamisoccerfan.com/Soccer/Questions_With_Claure.html

Posted by: universityandpark | November 19, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

History isn't going to buy season tickets or pay for stadium construction. I hate to be callous about it, but if MLS is going to keep expanding at this (reckless?) rate, the bids have to be first, second, and third. If St. Louis gets a team, I hope it's strictly based on merit and not because of the past.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | November 19, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

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