How Carolyn Kindle went from soccer novice to the face of historic MLS ownership group
Carolyn Kindle is the first to admit that in 2019, she wouldn’t have described herself as a soccer fan, much less a soccer connoisseur.
Kindle knows that’s an unusual origin story — especially considering that now, the 45-year-old business executive owns a soccer team.
When MLS kicks off its 28th season Saturday and St. Louis CITY SC makes its professional debut, Kindle and her cohort — which includes multiple members of the Taylor family, founders of rental car behemoth Enterprise — will make history as the league’s first women-led ownership group.
It’s a significant milestone for a league and sport that have grown rapidly in the United States during the last decade; St. Louis is the league’s 29th team, and the 16th new franchise since 2005.
“I’ll be honest, four years ago I knew nothing,” Kindle, the team’s CEO and President, told USA TODAY Sports with a laugh. “I’ve learned a lot about the sport since then. Now, I understand why it’s called the beautiful game.”
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For years, MLS commissioner Don Garber thought St. Louis was a natural MLS destination.
When Garber started talking with the city more than a decade ago about getting a franchise, “almost everybody of influence who we would meet with played the game,” he said — including the mayor. Francis Slay, who served the city from 2001-2017, won three national championships at NAIA Quincy University in Illinois.
“I always get a kick out of the fact that every MLS town calls itself ‘Soccer City,’” Garber told USA TODAY Sports. “But the game really does have a deep history in St. Louis.”
The sport has been woven into the fabric of the city for decades, churning out multiple national team stars, including recent World Cup standouts Josh Sargent, Tim Ream and Becky Sauerbrunn, among others. Saint Louis University has won 10 NCAA titles in men’s soccer. The Hermann Trophy, given annually to the country’s top college players, is named after a former St. Louis businessman and soccer executive, Robert Hermann. In the 1950 World Cup, when the U.S. upset England, five St. Louis natives, all immigrants, started for the Americans.
Clearly, the city was itching for a team. Shortly after St. Louis was awarded an expansion franchise in August 2019, more than 60,000 fans put down season ticket deposits.
When he first heard the city was getting a team, Taylor Twellman, a St. Louis native who put together a dazzling professional career as a striker for the USMNT and five-time MLS All-Star, said he had to “check my pulse and make sure I was still alive.”
“I’ve been talking about this place and this city for a long time,” said Twellman, the lead analyst for the new MLS Season Pass broadcast package with Apple TV. “There are just a few places in America where soccer is at the heartbeat of the city, and that’s been the case in St. Louis since the 1950 World Cup. It’s crazy when you think of how many pros we’ve produced, because those players didn’t have a team to look up to.”
That changes Saturday when St. Louis travels to Austin for its first game, which will kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET.
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Kindle admits she’s still somewhat uneasy describing herself as a “soccer person.” She’s learning the intricacies of the game: “Turns out there are a lot of cups to win in soccer,” she deadpanned.
But investing in a soccer team and soccer league makes perfect sense because above all else, Kindle has business pedigree.
A former high school tennis player, Kindle always liked sports. Her mom is a diehard hockey fan, and Kindle feels a blitz of nostalgia anytime she hears a call by Jack Buck, the famous St. Louis Cardinals’ announcer.
But Kindle kept busy with other priorities — namely, continuing to help run the Enterprise Rent-A-Car empire that her family built over the last six-plus decades. (She is the granddaughter of late Enterprise founder Jack Taylor.) Kindle serves as the President of the Fortune 500 company’s foundation, overseeing various charitable requests, among other responsibilities. A lifelong St. Louisan, she’s always been passionate about giving back to and being active in her community.
Around 2018, Kindle realized sports weren’t just about winning or losing games. They were about bringing people together — and making money. She excelled at both of those. Maybe it was time to expand her portfolio.
While she might not have spent free time playing MLS fantasy or studying free agency, Kindle knew a good investment when she saw one. To her, gathering other like-minded people to bring soccer to St. Louis was plain old common sense.
“It’s OK that she’s not a soccer person,” Twellman said. “St. Louis has plenty of soccer people — what we need are forward-thinking business people who know how to connect people from all walks of life. Carolyn is going to use the vehicle of sport to do that.”
That the people she tapped to help her were (almost) all women was more of a happy accident than an intentional statement.
“This has always been a family project and in my family, there’s only one man left — my uncle. Otherwise, it’s all females,” said Kindle, who is joined in the ownership group by six other women from the Taylor family. Andy Taylor (executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings) and Jim Kavanaugh (CEO of World Wide Technology) make up the rest of the ownership group. “When we talk about majority female ownership, it wasn’t by design — it’s just how our family has been constructed.”
Recognizing the value of diversity in the board room
Still, Kindle and others understand the magnitude of a women-led ownership group, especially in men’s professional sports, where women executives are rare.
“The skillset to work for a team is so much more than loving the sport,” Kindle said. “And there’s a lot of notoriety that comes from working with a successful sports team. Making money is great, but think of the influence you have on young girls who see you can work for a team even if you’re not an athlete.
“Maybe they’re great at marketing — well, they can be Vice President of Marketing for one of the top 10 MLS teams in the country. That’s an incredible job. And if you’re in that (role), think of all the younger girls who are looking up saying, ‘I want to be like her.’”
Diversity around the meeting table benefits everyone, Kindle said, because it allows for “non-traditional, out-of-the-box thinking.” She draws a straight line from the fact that there are so many women at St. Louis executive meetings to the fact that the stadium has more women’s bathrooms than men’s bathrooms, plus a sensory room and a parenting room.
Garber sees the benefit, too.
“I’ve said before, we are a league for a new America,” he said. “The country is changing and the empowerment of women in sports and in society … you want that energy leading your business. Diversity around the board table is going to lead to a bigger commitment to diversity in our everyday lives.”
Expansion is crucial at this particular moment, too, as the sport continues to build momentum heading into the 2026 World Cup, which will be played in 11 U.S. cities. But soccer isn’t just a popular game — it’s a moneymaker. LAFC paid a $100 million expansion fee when it joined the league in 2018. Earlier this year, Forbes valued it at $1 billion, a first for MLS.
“This sport has not yet gone to the level that it will achieve in the lead up, and the years after, the World Cup,” Garber said. “There’s this bubbling energy and opportunity, and the World Cup will give us a sort of rocket fuel to take it to an entirely new level. We’re just beginning to see what it could mean.”
Garber and Kindle are hopeful other young women are paying attention — and not just the ones who love soccer, but the ones who dream of ruling board rooms.
Breaking down the St. Louis CITY SC ownership group:
Carolyn Kindle: President and CEO of St. Louis CITY SC and president of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the charitable arm of Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Chrissy Taylor: Chief executive officer for Enterprise Holdings Inc., oversees the company’s operations and serves on the corporate Board of Enterprise Holdings.
Andy Taylor: Executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings Inc., the privately-held business founded in 1957 by his father, Jack Taylor.
Jo Ann Taylor Kindle: Chairperson of the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the charitable arm of Enterprise Holdings Inc.
Barbara Taylor: Former president and the first woman on the board of commissioners of the St. Louis Art Museum. Also serves on the board and executive committee of Forest Park Forever.
Patty Taylor: Serves on the board of the Crawford Taylor Foundation, which supports charities mainly in the St. Louis region. Also owns and operates an equestrian facility.
Ali Kindle Hogan: Founder and president of the board for Rung for Women, a nonprofit that provides resources to help women achieve sustained independence.
Kelly Taylor: The daughter of Andy and Barbara Taylor and the granddaughter of Jack Taylor. Kelly also volunteers as an assistant tennis coach for seniors.
Jim Kavanaugh: Co-founder and CEO of World Wide Technology, Inc., an $11 billion global technology solution provider. He also played collegiate soccer at St. Louis University and professional indoor soccer with the St. Louis Steamers.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: St. Louis CITY SC's women-led ownership group makes MLS history