Major League Soccer starts this weekend. Also present: St. Louis and former Bundesliga manager Pfannenstil – a special project that would make Europe’s soccer magnates jealous.
This video would have been unimaginable in the Bundesliga: a long-haired middle-aged man casually walks into an upgraded Audi sports car – his sneakers enlarged in an American flag design for a brief moment. Donning oversized aviator glasses, he climbs into the pink-and-blue supercar, revs the engine—and lets out a faraway roar.
When Lutz Pfannenstiel sees a video of her introduction as athletic director for St. Louis City SC, he still has to smile. A lot has happened in the two-and-a-half years since then – for the former Bundesliga manager and his new club. St. Louis kicked off its inaugural North American Soccer League (MLS) season with a 3-2 victory in Austin over the weekend. It is the result of a long journey.
Pfannenstiel helped create “StL City” – almost from nothing. “I started planning the club on a blank sheet of paper,” Pfannenstiel reveals to t-online. What seems like a dream scenario for football managers has come true for the 49-year-old. And how: With all the details, it cost the startup nearly $1 billion.
These amounts are fake for most Bundesliga clubs. Also, of course, because the new teams weren’t kicked off the ground there. It’s different in American sports. In the major leagues there are no rules for promotion and relegation. New teams can buy. This is what happened in St. Louis.
World Cup thing
The 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico will play an important role. “MLS would not be what it is without the 1994 World Cup. One can only imagine what this World Cup will do. It will be bigger than anyone can imagine. The road to 2026 will be rocket fuel for North American soccer,” hopes MLS Commissioner Don garber.
In St. Louis, the current euphoria is feeding elsewhere. The club is said to have invested over $700 million in the stadium, infrastructure and franchise fee alone. Pfannenstiel’s move to MLS stunned many Bundesliga pundits.
After all, the former goalkeeper, who was the first to be active in all of FIFA’s confederations, has evolved into the coach of Fortuna Dusseldorf. This was followed by offers from well-known Premier League clubs. “Then the offer came from St. Louis. And the overall package, the ability to build something according to my ideas, simply convinced me,” explains Bavaria.
What that meant in concrete terms might seem adventurous to many German observers—because when Pfannenstiel got down to business, St. Louis only existed on paper. There was no stadium, no office – not even the club’s training grounds.
What was there, however, was the money. “The owners are the Taylor family, the owners of Enterprise, the world’s largest car rental company. It’s a very different approach than the average investors,” explains Pfannenstiel, adding: “They want to give young people from the area the opportunity to play football and bring people downtown from For the sake of sports.
But does this really exist – the owners who don’t look at the dollar and only have in mind football promotion and the secret? When asked this question, Pfannenstil was self-doubting. “In the beginning, I had long discussions with the owners about the strategy to follow,” admits the former TSG Hoffenheim scout. His answer: “It quickly became clear to us that we wanted to build everything on three pillars: community, academy and professionals.”
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