FanPost

Albert Pujols, you just won the NL MVP. What are you going to do now?

Why, he's going to invest in an ownership group that is bidding to bring an expansion MLS franchise to St. Louis, of course!

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."

(courtesy of the Washington Post's Soccer Insider)

This is kind of unexpected, particularly because Dominicans usually care less about soccer than Americans do.  The MLS is putting a new team in Seattle next year, a new team in Philadelphia in 2010, and are currently accepting bids for two more franchises, bringing the total number of teams in the league to 18.  St. Louis has a strong amateur soccer following and would be a great place for a team, only they propose to build a stadium on the Illinois side of the river in one of the scummiest areas of the country.  Lord only knows why MLS didn't just relocate the Kansas City franchise to St. Louis, but there you go.

There's an interesting trend of athletes from other sports backing the MLS.  Oscar de la Hoya is a part owner of the Houston Dynamo, and Steve Nash is backing a bid for an expansion team in Vancouver (which would create a nice rivalry with both Seattle and Toronto FC).  Soccer powerhouse Barcelona has put in a bid for a franchise in Miami that would presumably operate in a manner similar to Chivas USA.  It's hard to imagine MLS saying no to Barcelona, but Miami fans tend to be very... noncommittal.  And considering that soccer isn't very popular with Cubans either...  The really intriguing thing would be if MLS did accept Barcelona's proposal and built a stadium in Miami.  What would the Marlins think?  There's a very good chance that the current economic climate has scuttled any real chance for them to build a new stadium, but if a (cheaper) soccer stadium were to go up before a new baseball stadium, would that be the final straw that caused the Marlins to pack up their two world championships and move?

Also, don't forget to watch the Columbus Crew take on the New York Red Bulls in the MLS Cup, Sunday at 3:30 on ABC.  Or you can watch the USA take on Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying (USA has already clinched advancement to the next round) tonight at 8:00 on ESPN Classic.

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