posted on November 20, 2013 07:00
Here in the heartland, the Bye Week robbed the locals of football, both collegiate and professional, this past weekend. But for those that don’t discriminate, there was still some football to be played if you looked hard enough.
Well, sort of. Unless you’re a pretentious, elitist, wannabe Euro Snob that frequents the many soccer bars available to this fine city (guilty!), you might know it better as soccer.
Whatever your nomenclature preference, it happened here on Monday evening. With the Arch overlooking from the background, Bosnia-Herzegovina took on Argentina, and to the dismay of a reported 30,000 or so pro-Bosnia fans in attendance, Argentina left the Gateway City the victors 2-0.
To the soccer unaware, the game was a friendly that had no bearing on either team’s World Cup chances. In fact, both have already qualified for next summers tournament in Brazil.
Monday’s game marks the third friendly that has come to St. Louis in the past six months. In May, Busch Stadium reportedly sold out in 20 minutes to see a clash between English Premier League counterparts, Chelsea and Manchester City. In August, arguably the best player in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, brought his club Real Madrid to the Edward Jones Dome to play Inter Milan. The attendance neared 55,000 aka about as much as the St. Louis Rams draw week to week, and several lucky fans even stormed the field and hugged their favorites on Real Madrid. And then probably got arrested, but still....
When soccer comes calling, St. Louis has been fairly quick to pick up the phone. So the question of the day: Should St. Louis try to get an MLS franchise?
My answer is an absolute yes.
And I’m not alone. InsideSTL.com posted a poll yesterday asking what locals would want the most: MLS, NBA, or Neither. As of this writing, 41% wanted an MLS team and 36% decided they would rather have Neither. It might not have been an overwhelming yes for MLS, but three successful soccer turnouts in the past six months cannot be ignored. Sorry NBA.
I’m not going to breakdown the economic implications of such a proposal or even the logistical likelihood that the MLS will look St. Louis’ way.
For the last six years, I’ve been behind enemy lines in Kansas City, home to one of MLS’ top franchises. Once a laughingstock that played their games in the vast Arrowhead Stadium under the monicker, the KC Wizards, in front of what seemed like players’ families and close friends only, the franchise changed course and ushered in the future of MLS. They rebranded their franchise with a name befitting the pretentious nature of soccer overseas, Sporting KC, and created a state-of-the-art soccer-specific
stadium Heaven, Livestrong Soccer Park.
WARNING: what follows may sound a bit over-the-top.
The MLS is the best live fan experience, bar none.
There is just no comparison to the cozy confines of a soccer-specific stadium that holds no more than 20,000 fans, all seemingly so close to the action, they are on the field. To make it even better, there’s a certain kind of crazy only found in a soccer game. There’s drums providing the heartbeat of the stadium. There’s fans, clad in soccer scarves, barking catchy chants in unison as if they were all in the same douchey Fraternity once upon a time. And after the final seconds tick off the clock, confetti fills the air, voices are lost, and the countdown until your next game begins.
Everything is so organic.
I’ve been to many NFL games, MLB games, NHL games, college sporting events of all kinds, and even some NBA games, and nothing has come close to those 90 minutes in an MLS game. Sounds outrageous, right?
MLS-gasm aside, would a team be viable in St. Louis?
I'm sure there is a right way to answer this, but considering this question delves too deep into the state of St. Louis economics, I'm probably not qualified to answer it. That being said, from a passion and enjoyment standpoint, it is my belief that the strong soccer foundation in St. Louis would embrace an MLS team wholeheartedly and mirror what their Kansas City brethren have accomplished.
This needs to happen.
If you’re not sold, fine, but if that’s the case, I don’t recommend going to Livestrong Soccer Park or any of the other fledgling franchises’ home stadiums. The energy is downright contagious and you just might become a fan.