My questions about St. Louis

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.

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4 thoughts on “My questions about St. Louis

  1. Please no Atlanta. I desperately want to think that the MLS is smarter than that. The league needs to learn that the best markets are ones that A. aren’t as obsessed with American football (i.e. Portland) B. aren’t already home to a crowded sports landscape and C. have a pre-exsisting fanbase (again, Portland) or the potential for one based on population makeup.

    Even C. can be iffy, and I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that Miami’s Hispanic population with turn out from day one.

    The factor that I don’t see talked about enough is the “urban cool” factor. I know that Toronto is a weird town from an American perspective, but I think that TFC showed what type of approach is needed. Young, urban, and vocal is the most important type of fan MLS can get.

  2. If MLS moves to EITHER Atlanta or Miami, I have lost faith in them. I don’t give two shits about the Barcelona bid; frankly that discourages me even further. Chivas USA is bad enough. They have failed as a franchise (not on the field). No one wants to see it happen again. And it will, if Barcelona USA becomes a real team. I don’t care how well-known Barca is, and how many fans they would attract. That makes the MLS even less respectable than it already is. The only bids that make sense to me are Portland, which is not even arguable in my eyes, and Montreal and New York City. However, with the last two out, I still take Vancouver and St. Louis over Miami and Atlanta. Those two candidates are jokes, and one if not both would end up moving in 5 years anyway. In one case, you have zero support for the current USL-1 team and no local fan support (like the Sons of Ben). In the other case, you have zero support for a USL-1 franchise, zero support for the former MLS team, hardly any support for the potential team, and only hypothetical situations in which the potential team would succeed.

    To me, none of the above makes sense, or is marketable. Frankly, I think MLS is only going to choose these markets because of their money, while places like Portland get overlooked because their owners are less stable financially. Well, that ends my rant. It also leaves me super pissed off.

  3. I’d rather see a franchise in St. Louis than in Atlanta or even Miami. I agree that Portland is the better bet and either Montreal or Vancouver would also be good bets to fill seats and generate some fan enthusiasm. NASL went with the national foot print and that sure didn’t work. We can eventually support a 20 team league, but it has to be in the right markets.

  4. Why doesn’t St.Louis have a USL team? We don’t need one. SLU and SIUE fill that niche nicely at the moment.

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