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By ESPN Staff

Baseball star Pujols backing St. Louis bid for MLS

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is adding his star power to a group working to bring an MLS expansion team to the area.

The announcement on Tuesday comes a day after Pujols won his second NL MVP award. Pujols' reputation, plus a significant financial investment that was not disclosed, is expected to boost St. Louis Soccer United's chances of winning a franchise in 2011.

"I am very proud and excited to join the effort to bring Major League Soccer to the St. Louis area," Pujols said in a statement. "This means a lot to me and my family, as we all love soccer and we believe in MLS."

Seven cities are competing for two expansion teams with selections expected by the end of March. Also applying were Vancouver, Montreal, Atlanta, Miami, Ottawa and Portland.

The Vancouver group also has star power, including two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.

The St. Louis group believes that adding Pujols, the highest-paid player in Cardinals history with two years to go on a seven-year, $100 million contract, will eliminate doubts about its financial footing and encourage area business leaders to become involved.

The team would play in an 18,500-seat stadium yet to be built in Collinsville, Ill., near St. Louis.

"This is something that will be great for our community, especially our youth," Pujols said. "St. Louis is an unbelievable sports town and we'll be a great city for Major League Soccer."

The St. Louis group submitted a formal bid for an expansion franchise on Oct. 15. Majority investor Jeff Cooper said other investors will be announced soon.

"It is frankly impossible to imagine a better partner in our effort than Albert Pujols," Cooper said. "Albert's commitment is a testament to the strength of the league, the interest and promise of Major League Soccer in St. Louis and the overall quality of our team, stadium and youth complex plan."

The stadium plan also calls for 12 synthetic turf fields and a professional grass training field designed to host regional, national and international youth soccer events.

Collinsville approved a tax increment financing deal in January, and groundbreaking will take place once the city is awarded a franchise.

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