St. Louis will once again have its own professional soccer team.
Many green- and white-clad soccer fans celebrated the exciting news at the St. Louis Scott Gallagher soccer club facilities, where the club and United Soccer Leagues (USL) made the announcement Thursday.
For now, St. Louis Scott Gallagher is getting a feel for its new ownership of the outdoor soccer team by picking a name and developing a logo. But after they have wrapped up the finer details, the USL PRO team will start playing in 2015. The soccer club’s acquisition of the team comes after 18 months of deliberation and planning.
USL Pro began in 2011 and is sanctioned as a Division III Professional League by the United State Soccer Federation. It has a player development agreement with MLS (Major League Soccer), the men's outdoor professional league.
Soccer broadcaster Bill McDermott (who played the game at Saint Louis University) said it is St. Louis’s rich history of turning out great soccer players that’s finally brought a professional team to the region.
“We in St. Louis have to ask ourselves: Are we still contributing to the growth of soccer in our country? I certainly think so,” McDermott said. “And with this announcement today, we are fortunate, indeed, to again be a part of the national landscape.”
The addition of a USL PRO soccer team is building the framework to perhaps score a Major League Soccer (MLS) team sometime in the future, McDermott said.
“It’s not a given; it’s not definite,” McDermott said. “Scott Gallagher as an entity will not be involved in MLS. But if it can foster it and provide the proper environment, it can happen.”
The MLS and USL PRO teams are working to partner together more often, which USL president Tim Holt thinks will strengthen the quality of American soccer overall. Moreover, he said it will engage fans of both divisions.
As USL PRO also expands into other cities, like Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Holt said the USL’s vision is to one day develop three regional conferences – an Eastern, Central and Western – for lower division soccer competitions.
Much of the talking that took place behind the scenes to bring USL PRO to St. Louis involved St. Louis Scott Gallagher’s ability to generate excitement – and fill seats -- on game days. Holt said, ultimately, it was their confidence in the St. Louis soccer culture and the traditions that already exist that motivated them to move forward.
“I’ll tell you, we’ve been at this for a while,” Holt said. "We were absolutely blown away by their business plan, all their level of detail, how they’re going to engage, why this is going to be successful. But beyond else, we have a supreme confidence in their ability to execute.”
Earlier this year, Andrew Haines, owner of the St. Louis Ambush indoor soccer team, and Tony Glavin, owner and coach of the St. Louis Lions, also applied to bring a USL PRO team to St. Louis. Though they were not involved in St. Louis Scott Gallagher’s plans, Haines said he is excited to see an outdoor team come back to St. Louis.
“I think it’s a good compliment for the Ambush. I see there are things we can hopefully cross-promote and work on some player personnel,” he said.
Holt said USL PRO looks forward to cooperating with both the Lions and the Ambush in the future.
“We see no reason that these groups can’t work together for the best interesting of the sport in the local market,” he said. “But we feel we have the right group at the right time to own and operate a successful pro team.”