(Photo Credit: USL PRO)
Soccer. The sport that captivates millions across the pond and around the world has begun to gain traction stateside throughout the past decade. The MLS continues to grow expanding their league from its original 10 teams in 1996 to its current 21 teams, recently adding New York FC and Orlando City Soccer Club.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber stated a few months back that he would like to see the league add four more teams by the 2020 season. David Beckham, formerly of LA Galaxy and the most prominent face in the MLS, recently started this process completing a deal to bring a team to Miami, Florida.
But since its foundation in 1996 the MLS continues to pass over the one place where soccer originated in the United States, St. Louis. This is mostly due in part of the fact that no buyer wants to step forward and put forth the money to fund a pro soccer team. However the USL PRO league announced earlier this month that a team would soon call St. Louis home. Former soccer pro and St. Louis businessman John Kavanaugh in partnership with St. Louis Scott Gallagher will fund the new pro team.
Although it’s not the MLS team everyone wanted it is certainly a step in the right direction. The USL PRO team is better than either of the failed semi-pro teams in recent years. Let’s just hope this new team can survive the financial troubles A.C. St. Louis and St. Louis Athletica endured.
The one bright spot St. Louis has had with soccer has been with the St. Louis Ambush. The Ambush, who are a part of the new MASL super league for indoor soccer had the third highest attendance in the MISL last year averaging a little over 5,300 fans per game.
A solid fan base will be the key factor for this USL PRO team moving forward if they want to bring an MLS team to the city in the future. After seeing the huge turnouts for the friendly matches held last summer between perennial European clubs I have complete faith this city can support a pro soccer club. The city has had flourishing success with the Blues, Rams, and Cardinal fan bases and adding a soccer team would only add to the hype.
A record crowd of 48,263 was on hand for the matchup between Chelsea and Manchester City at Busch, the largest ever for an athletic event held at the stadium. Likewise, the Real Madrid and Inter matchup attracted 54,184 fans, the largest ever for a soccer match in St. Louis. This summer St. Louis will again play host to international teams Bosnia and Ivory Coast in their final tune up for the 2014 World Cup.
And as interest continues to increase around the MLS, highly touted players are beginning to ditch their Euro squads for American teams, which is exactly what the American leagues need to sustain and build larger fan bases.
Just think of the potential rivalries between a St. Louis club and Sporting Kansas City or the Chicago Fire. If St. Louis can sustain a solid fan base and avoid financial woes, they could be on their way to having an MLS team in the future.