MLS’ newest owner Kindle breaks new ground for women in sport

Feb 22 (Reuters) – Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion franchise St Louis City SC makes its regular-season debut on Saturday, with Carolyn Kindle becoming the league’s first-ever female majority owner.

The self-proclaimed soccer newcomer joins the ranks of just a handful of female majority owners in professional sports after the franchise reportedly shelled out $200 million in expansion fees en route to becoming its 29th MLS team.

Kindle, which also runs a majority-female ownership group, told Reuters it’s been an “epic journey” since the expansion plan launched in 2018 after previous attempts to bring a professional men’s club to the football-mad city failed.

Kindle, the granddaughter of Enterprise Rent-A-Car founder Jack Taylor, said it began as an idea to give back to the St. Louis community.

“I don’t really think football was in the top five originally,” said Kindle, who has risen to the ranks of Enterprise Holdings, parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

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“But once we started doing some research, we realized it was going to be a great, great thing for the city of St. Louis.”

US manager Meg Whitman, co-owner of FC Cincinnati, and Columbus Crew co-owner Dee Haslam are among women with existing stakes in MLS clubs.

“We are a league for a new America,” MLS commissioner Don Garber told Reuters.

“We want to have more diversity in our ownership groups so that we have diversity of thought, not just diversity in our fan base and our coaching ranks and our administration, but diversity at our board table.”

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St. Louis’ MLS debut follows the departure of the Rams of the National Football League (NFL), who left the city and relocated to Los Angeles after the 2015 season.

The MLS franchise is making St. Louis a three-team city again, along with the Cardinals of Major League Baseball and the Blues of the National Hockey League.

“It goes back to something I’ve always wanted to do that put St. Louis back on the international map. And what better way to do that than with a global sport,” Kindle said.

She is aware of the hurdles the new franchise faces on the pitch as it brings players and coaches together for the first time.

And with Garber planning to appoint a 30th team before the end of the year, St. Louis City has little time to step into the spotlight.

“As for any kind of expectation or prediction, I want them to have fun. I want them to play well. I want them to bring excitement that everyone has been talking about,” Kindle said.

“But I feel like, knowing the coaches in the athletic department, failure is not an option.”

St. Louis begins the season on Saturday at Austin FC and plays its home game against Charlotte FC on March 4 at the 22,500 seat Citypark.

Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York Editing by Toby Davis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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