Ives comes right out and endorses St. Louis as one of the next recipients of an MLS expansion franchise. He cites all the usual reasons people give when hyping up St. Louis like its history, heritage, youth teams, etc.
My question remains, if the market really cared about pro soccer that much, why does it not have a team above the PDL level? Heck, in Hermann Stadium, they even have a stadium that seems ideal for a USL-1 or USL-2 team. And yet, they haven’t had one.
Look, lots of cities should have pro sports teams if you only went on history, heritage, etc. If that were the case, Springfield, MA would be a mortal lock for an NBA franchise and the NFL would still have teams in Canton, Ironton, and Massillon. But history isn’t enough.
Plus, it just doesn’t look like they want it enough. Where is the push to play USA games in St. Louis? (Just put up some expansion bleachers like they do in Cary for big events.) Where is the enthusiasm other than out of this one ownership group? Where are their Sons of Ben? The only constituency I see clamoring that hard is the media. And if John McCain proved one thing, it’s that appealing to “heritage” and having the media as your only discernible support base doesn’t tend to work that well.
Plus, look at what else the new team will have to compete with in the market… the Cardinals, only one of the most popular teams in the country and an absolute civic obsession. Can the soccer team gain a media foothold there, especially as that much vaunted soccer history (especially professionally) grows more and more distant?
Does this mean that STL can’t ever get an MLS team? Not at all. My tip to them would be to get a USL-1 team going there, show that the fan support and management competence is there, then go hard after the next set of expansion openings.
Where would I put the next two expansion teams? Portland and Miami.
Where do I see MLS putting the next two expansion teams? Atlanta and Miami.
Why do see them going there? MLS is making noises like they believe in the old NHL-esque “national footprint” argument. I pretty much don’t believe MLS has any future in the South other than in Miami, and even that is iffy. MLS wants badly to believe otherwise, but like the NHL has found out, that footprint can prove a Faustian bargain, whereby yes, you’ve filled region X with franchises, but those franchises aren’t supported, hemorrhage money, are unstable, and teeter on the edge of existence.