Gov. Rendell and state officials are expected to announce a stadium-funding package today that will bring the Philadelphia region within striking distance of securing a Major League Soccer franchise for the 2010 season.

And the city of Chester likely will get money for a much-needed supermarket to boot.

Rendell is planning to make the announcement this afternoon at the Wharf at Rivertown office complex in Chester, near the site of the proposed stadium.

The approximately $50 million state funding package will include money for the $115 million stadium and a supermarket in Chester, a House aide said yesterday.

State and local officials envision the 20,000-seat facility as an anchor for a $400 million project along the Delaware River that will include housing, office and retail development and a promenade.

An investor group that includes iStar Financial Chief Executive Jay Sugarman, Swarthmore Group Chairman Jim Nevels, Philadelphia lawyer William Doran and developers from the Buccini/Pollin Group, is competing with St. Louis-area investors to become the owners of Major League Soccer's 16th team.

The state funding will likely give Philadelphia an edge over St. Louis, although it is possible that both could land an MLS franchise that could begin playing in 2010.

"It's not a lock, but it's awfully darn close," a source familiar with the negotiations said of the likelihood of Philadelphia's becoming the league's 16th team.

Yesterday, the Collinsville, Ill., City Council announced that it had approved a tax-increment-financing plan to help fund an 18,500-seat soccer stadium and related development in metropolitan St. Louis.

Delaware County already has agreed to contribute $30 million toward the Chester stadium, which would be owned by a county sports authority. *