While many sports observers look at a new downtown, north riverfront stadium as a means of keeping the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, there’s another major aspect to building a facility…getting a franchise in Major League Soccer.
MLS was a key topic when Dave Peacock and Governor Jay Nixon’s task force unveiled plans for the new stadium, and it’s still a key component to the viability of a stadium.
While the task force works with the NFL to design and fund a new facility, they’re on a parallel path with MLS.
This week, task force member Dave Peacock will attend the MLS All-Star game in, ironically, Denver. The irony comes in the fact that the game between the MLS All Stars and Tottenham Hotspurs will be hosted by Colorado Rapids (and Rams) owner Stan Kroenke, and be played at his Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
While in Denver, Peacock will meet again with MLS officials about an expansion team for the riverfront stadium, and sources say St. Louis “can have the MLS” if the new stadium plan comes to fruition.
At the same time, the Cardinals announced on Sunday that Busch Stadium will host an actual World Cup Qualifier on November 13.
While St. Louis has supported recent friendlies played locally, it’s been a long time since a match with implications like the one this will have has been played in St. Louis. In fact, it’s been since November of 1989 that the US Men’s National Team has played a qualifier, when they did so at the Soccer Park against El Salvador.
There are numerous advantages to support for a match at Busch.
Number one, support will impress MLS and keep St. Louis at the forefront of expansion thoughts for early next decade. Secondly, it makes a statement for the NFL (as if it needed to be made) that St. Louis is not only a great baseball town, but a great sports town. And third, it can keep St. Louis on the path to regaining its status as the soccer capital of the USA.
There’s no doubt that forty years ago, St. Louis was the focal point for U.S. Soccer. There’s also no doubt that our community has been caught and passed up.
Even though St. Louis supports and watches soccer as much as anyone, the fact that the city doesn’t have an MLS franchise is telling.
Saint Louis University won four of the first five and nine of the first fifteen NCAA Division I soccer championships, but hasn’t taken home the trophy since 1973. In the last 25 years, Indiana and Virginia have each won five National Titles, and SLU hasn’t made it to the Finals.
In a bit of good fortune for USA Soccer, everyone else in the country has begun to produce quality talent, and our National Team is making it to World Cups after failing to qualify for most of the 70’s and 80’s.
Once upon a time, St. Louis was the main supplier of talent to the National Team and to the college game.
Hopefully, having this qualifier in town will encourage even more young athletes to stay with soccer and become professionals.
And what better way to continue that trend than to have a pro team in town?
While I’m not the most knowledgeable soccer guy or the biggest fan of the sport, I’m a fan of sports in St. Louis, and I’m aware that one thing we’re great at is sports.
Let’s hope the soccer enthusiasts get when they want, and we can expand the breadth of sports in our region.
Soccer success is a win/win for sports fans.
With the construction of a new stadium, soccer fans will likely get the team they’ve been longing for, and fans of the NFL will be able to keep their team in town.
This is a big week.
The indefatigable Peacock continues, along with the task force, the march toward a new stadium. And the boxes that need to be checked off; land acquisition, financing, communication with the NFL, and another tenant…a team in MLS, are seeming closer every day.
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