St. Louis, Missouri is well-known as a baseball town. Despite the popularity of the NFL in the United States and the growing appeal of live hockey, neither the NFL’s Rams nor the NHL’s Blues have been able to match the overwhelming popularity of MLB’s St. Louis Cardinals. With the Cardinals 11 World Series championships, 19 National League Pennants, and a history dating back to 1882, the baseball town reputation is well-deserved. However, there is another sport with rich ties to the city known as the “Gateway to the West.”
Starting with the formation of the Saint Louis Soccer League in 1907 to the dominance of Saint Louis University’s 10 NCAA championships from 1959-1974 to the fact that no US World Cup team has been without a player born in St. Louis, including five players from the miraculous win over England in 1950, it is easy to see why St. Louis has long been considered the epicenter of American soccer.
With the rise of other soccer hotbeds across the country and the lack of a professional club in St. Louis, that reputation was beginning to fade. Simply being the city that produced Brian McBride, Taylor Twellman, Tim Ream and numerous other stars for MLS and the US Men’s National Team was not enough to bring the attention back from the likes of Seattle, Portland, or Kansas City. St. Louis needed something to re-assert the city’s place on the soccer map. A deep pocket investment to relocate or build an expansion MLS club in the city was never going to work. That isn’t what this city wants because that isn’t what this city respects.
From the college level programs to the Developmental League club St Louis Lions (supported by Scottish football giants Celtic FC no less) to longstanding youth leagues, the history of St. Louis soccer is one steeped in the tradition of grass roots growth. For St. Louis, building something is better than buying something.
On May 1st 2014 the biggest step in the rebirth of this great soccer city took place with the announced expansion of the USL Pro to St. Louis in the form of Saint Louis FC.
Set to take the pitch in spring of 2015, Saint Louis will play their home games at the historic St. Louis Soccer Park in nearby Fenton Missouri. Building up from the USL Pro, Saint Louis FC embodies the history and tradition of the city as well as embraces the bright future of beautiful game in the USA.
Billboards have already been erected reminding the city that 2015 is almost here and buzz for the team has already started to spread. A large part of that buzz being generated is the local supports group, St. Louligans. The St Louligans have been supporting all forms of soccer in St Louis since 2010 and have been instrumental in reminding fans how much fun soccer is and can be.
Reaching out to and forming a partnership with the local supporters group was a wise move by Saint Louis FC and really goes a long way in building the foundation necessary for long term success. Another sign that Saint Louis FC understands what it takes to succeed in the city can be found in the teams crest itself which was voted on by the fans.
The crest which features a fleur-de-lis in front of green and blue stripes surrounded by the team name and the date 1764, includes several nods to the city’s history. The fleur-de-lis and the year 1764 denote the year the city was founded and the city’s French heritage. The alternating blue and green stripes are meant to represent the clubs values, Unity-Humility-Passion-Respect-Tradition.
Saint Louis FC has done everything right so far. They have formed a club connected to the city, founded on tradition, and one that will grow with the city and fans. St. Louis has a history of developing top level American soccer talent, now they have a club that can develop, grass roots style, into a top club for the future.
The schedule has not been released yet for the 2015 USL Pro season but when it is, circle the date of Saint Louis FC’s home debut because it marks the return of an American classic, St. Louis soccer.
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