Major League Soccer has made a point by bringing in more teams to the top division. So far, they’ve expanded to NYC FC and Orlando City SC. Outside of that they are looking at Atlanta, and the Miami David Beckham’s (name to be confirmed).
Each time the MLS has expanded, they’ve missed one city, for more flashy markets like Miami and Atlanta. Atlanta and Miami aren’t confirmed for the 22 or the 23, but all signs are pointing towards them. St. Louis needs to be in those next three spots. Historically speaking, there are very few towns in America that have produced, and love the sport as much as St. Louis. The town is basically the hot bed and the origin of the sport. But they have never had the right management team, or people behind the effort to get a team there. AC St. Louis proves that.
The backbone of this argument is one of many things. The earliest record of soccer in the city is 1881, just slightly before the FA in Scotland. Like a lot of soccer in the states, the leagues predate FA’s over in Europe and the Civil War in the States. Between 1921 and 1957 six different clubs won the US Open Cup, which is basically our FA Cup, but with some differences.
In 1950, a rag tag US national team that beat England 1-0 which featured many players from St. Louis (5 of the 11, and this was in a time when there wasn’t any substitutions in the sport). The coach was even Walter Giesler, so the St.Louis connection was very strong. Every World Cup team has had some link to St. Louis.
But history gets you only so far. Jeff Cooper and Anheuser Busch in 2009, tried to get St. Louis in the MLS when the last big expansion came in. We know by following the sport, and this article, that the last expansion of teams was Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Montreal. All these clubs have done well in their markets, and had fan bases from the old NASL. Jeff Cooper did eventually get a club going, AC St. Louis in 2010, but they folded due to lack of finances.
Currently, there’s only two clubs in St. Louis – the Lions of USL (United Soccer League) PDL, who have a partnership with Celtic of Scotland to allow the development of players from St. Louis with Celtic coaching. Lennoxtown, the Celtic youth academy training facility, is well known for coaching and producing players. The second team is St. Louis Ambush, an indoor side.
There isn’t any major companies that want to help foot a team in St. Louis. Yes the Rams owner is Stan Kroenke of Arsenal and the Colorado Rapids is there, but does he want another team? Only he knows. The better thing would be to follow the model of NYCFC and partner with a baseball team, and a European power. In St. Louis you have the Cardinals, one of the most Iconic franchises in the sport, and who else should partner with them? Manchester United? Liverpool? No, Barcelona. Think of it this way, Real Madrid has a partnership with Real Salt Lake, and every couple of years soccer media in the states pumps out stories about Barca owning a club. With this in mind, they need to put a team in St. Louis.
Of course Barcelona is rocked by the Neymar scandal right now, and Spanish football has massive debts to each club. They, however, have a large world wide following, and many people would welcome a St.Barca. It could be a great way to get great coaching into the St. Louis region, and if you get the team up fast enough, you could perhaps get a Xavi or an Iniesta over here. Celtic won’t come over, while they have working connections to teams over in the States. A full-time connection here isn’t in their thoughts by the looks of it, even though they have a huge fan base here.
Announced on the last week of January of 2014, the Ambush and the Lions are combining their efforts to bring a USL-PRO team to St. Louis with the full intention to make the team enter the MLS 24.
By Stephen Brandt – Liverpool fan – @StephenCBrandt