After four years without a professional team, St. Louis was awarded an expansion franchise in the USL Pro, U.S. soccer's third tier.
The unnamed club will be operated by businessman Jim Kavanaugh in partnership with St. Louis Gallagher, a powerful youth club that counts Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Brad Davis, Chris Klein and Jack Jewsbury among its alumni. It's a very well-known and powerful youth organization.
“We are thrilled to welcome St. Louis into USL PRO starting with the 2015 season,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “St. Louis, more than any other U.S. city, has significantly contributed to the development and growth of American soccer on all levels – youth, collegiate and professional. Through the years, St. Louis players, coaches and soccer executives have greatly impacted not only the game of soccer, but the history of American soccer itself."
The franchise will play at the 5,000-seat Soccer Park in Fenton.
St. Louis, one of U.S. soccer's ancestral hotbeds, has been without a pro team since 2010 when AC St. Louis folded.
While the club won't be a direct rival for Sporting Kansas City, it adds to the growing number of professional teams sprouting up in the Midwest. This year, Oklahoma City Energy FC -- a Sporting KC affiliate club -- joined the USL Pro.
The Tulsa Roughnecks and Colorado Switchbacks will also be joining the USL Pro in 2015.
USL Pro and MLS have a multiyear affiliation partnership that allows MLS clubs to loan players out for experience. Also, MLS clubs have the opportunity to field a second team in USL Pro. Only the Los Angeles Galaxy has taken that step so far.
Orlando City SC -- another KC affiliate club in the third tier -- will join Major League Soccer for next season. A path that many -- including Energy FC and St. Louis, eventually -- will look to emulate.