St. Louis officially joins USL PRO, furthering speculation of Chicago Fire affiliation

St. Louis set to enter USL PRO in 2015, fueling potential Fire affiliation

USL PRO announced Thursday afternoon that a St. Louis group led by youth club Scott Gallagher would be the newest entrant into the nation’s third division with the side set to begin league play in 2015.

The team will be led by head coach Dale Schilly, who has nearly 30 years of coaching experience at every level.

“The St. Louis area has waited patiently for the return of professional outdoor soccer,” Schilly said in a press release.  “It has been gratifying to watch the professional game blossom across the country, yet frustrating for the St. Louis soccer community to not be a part of the growth on the professional level.  With the new agreement in place between the MLS and USL PRO, there could not be a better time for St. Louis to be a part of the enthusiasm and passion that comes with this great sport.”

With Major League Soccer mandating that all of its clubs reach an affiliation agreement with USL PRO sides by 2015 or start their own team in the league, Chicago-Fire.com fueled speculation earlier this week by asking fans where they’d like to see a potential USL PRO affiliate next season.

The unscientific poll saw 42% of respondents make St. Louis their choice with 33% choosing Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Asked about the potential affiliation prior to Thursday’s announcement, Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop hinted that an affiliate deal could be close with the new club.

“Nothing is finalized yet,” he told reporters post-training. “We’re talking to those guys now but until we get a definite, we can’t really say anything [official].”

The new club brings professional soccer back to St. Louis for the first time since NASL club AC St. Louis folded after one season in 2010. The new St. Louis entry's first coach Schilly also led AC St. Louis towards the end of their lone season.

Set to play at the 5,000-seat St. Louis Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo., the Scott Gallagher backed club joins the Tulsa Roughnecks and Colorado Springs Switchbacks as new teams confirmed to begin play next season.

Long-time PDL side Michigan Bucks have also made significant noise this week about a move into the USL PRO division in 2015, with a move up the ladder also likely pushing the suburban-Detroit based side into a new soccer-specific stadium downtown.