ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols is branching out.
A day after he was named the National League's Most Valuable Player, Pujols announced that he has joined the ownership group for a prospective Major League Soccer expansion franchise in St. Louis. The group, St. Louis Soccer United, hopes to have a team playing in the area 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 issued on Tuesday. "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."
If a team is awarded to the area, it would play in Collinsville, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from the city of St. Louis. The organization has plans for an 18,500-seat stadium in Collinsville. The effort to bring a soccer team to the Gateway City has been going on for some time, but it certainly gains visibility with Pujols' participation.
"It is frankly impossible to imagine a better partner in our effort than Albert Pujols," Jeff Cooper, SLSU's chairman, said in the statement. "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. In Albert Pujols, we have someone who will be terrific not only for St. Louis, but for all of MLS and the global soccer community."
Pujols has formed significant roots in St. Louis since joining the Cardinals in 2001. He makes his year-round home in the area, and his charitable organization, the Pujols Family Foundation, is active in St. Louis as well as in his native Dominican Republic.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.