Soccer in St. Louis

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Soccer is a popular sport in St. Louis today, and has been popular in St. Louis since the start of the 20th century. Although St. Louis, Missouri, currently lacks a professional Major League Soccer franchise, the city is considered to have one of the nation's richest soccer heritages, with a history of closely followed pro, college, select and prep teams.[1]

Professional teams[edit]

St. Louis Soccer League (1907-39)[edit]

The St. Louis Soccer League, founded in 1907, was the country's only fully professional soccer league. St. Leo's, the league's only fully professional squad, dominated the standings for seven years.

Before 1914, most teams participated only in local competitions. In 1913, the St. Louis Soccer League came to national attention when St. Leo’s tied the Paterson True Blues, winners of the American Cup. At the time, the American Cup was the most recognized regional cup and was the de facto East Coast championship.

In 1914, the new United States Football Association established the National Challenge Cup. When the St. Louis teams entered the competition in 1918, it became the first truly national competition; over the next few years, it replaced the regional cups. St. Louis teams initially had difficulty getting past Chicago and Cleveland teams, but in 1920 Ben Millers stunned the East Coast teams by knocking off Fore River to become the first club outside of the northeast to win the cup. SLSL teams went to the next four finals, winning the cup again in 1922. SLSL team also went to the final in 1926, 1929 and every season from 1932 to 1939.

The club Stix, Baer and Fuller F.C. was successful during the 1930s, reaching the finals of the National Challenge Cup for 6 consecutive years from 1932—1937, winning three consecutive titles in 1933, 1934, and 1935.

In 1935, the SLSL began to see internal strife, including lawsuits between teams over player tampering, which led in 1939 to its dissolution.[2]

Stars (NASL) (1967-77)[edit]

The St. Louis Stars played from 1967-77 in the North American Soccer League. The team was known for its high concentration of American players, many from the St. Louis area, in contrast to other NASL teams' reliance on foreign players.[3] The team moved to Anaheim in 1978 and became the California Surf.

Steamers (MISL) (1979-88)[edit]

The St. Louis Steamers played in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1979-88. The league awarded St. Louis a franchise on July 31, 1979,[4] and the home opener on December 14, 1979, drew over 18,000 fans to the team's home field at the St. Louis Arena.[4] Part of the Steamers' attraction was that their roster was drawn in large part from local talent.[4]

Their average seasonal attendance exceeded 12,000 fans from 1980-81 to 1984-85, and reached its peak during the 1981-82 season, when the team averaged 17,107 fans per game, including 19,298 fans in the Steamers' match at the Arena against the Denver Avalanche.[4] They outdrew the NHL's St. Louis Blues in four consecutive seasons: 1980-81 through 1983-84.[5]

In 1981-82, the Steamers won their second straight division title, and reached the MISL Championship finals, where they lost to New York in a five-game series.

The Steamers played their final match on April 15, 1988 in front of 4,839 fans.[4] Following the 1987-88 season, the club folded, and the MISL terminated the Steamers' franchise.

Storm (MISL) (1989-92)[edit]

Main article: St. Louis Storm

The St. Louis Storm were a soccer team based out of St. Louis that played in the Major Indoor Soccer League. They played from 1989 to 1992. Their home arena was St. Louis Arena.

Ambush (NPSL) (1992-2000)[edit]

The St. Louis Ambush was a professional indoor soccer team that played in the National Professional Soccer League from 1992-2000. The team was founded in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they played one season before coming to St. Louis. The Ambush made the playoffs every year that they played in St. Louis, except their final year of 1999-2000. The Ambush won one National Professional Soccer League championship (1994-95 season), defeating the Harrisburg Heat. They played in four NPSL Championship series (1994, 1995, 1998, 1999), losing to the Cleveland Crunch twice (in 1994 and 1999), and to the Milwaukee Wave (1998).

Steamers (WISL/MISL) (1998-2006)[edit]

The St. Louis Steamers was a professional indoor soccer team based in St. Louis, Missouri. The second team to use this name, the team played in the World Indoor Soccer League in 2000-01, then in the MISL from 2003-04 to 2005-06 season.

The Steamers were granted a World Indoor Soccer League expansion franchise in December 1998 but did not begin play until the 2000 season. In 2002, the team, along with fellow WISL teams Dallas Sidekicks and San Diego Sockers joined the Major Indoor Soccer League when the two leagues merged.

Athletica (WPS) (2009-10)[edit]

Main article: Saint Louis Athletica

Founded in 2008 by St. Louis native Jeff Cooper, the Saint Louis Athletica competed in Women's Professional Soccer from 2009 to 2010. Athletica initially played its home matches on the campus of Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville, and later moved to Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in the suburb of Fenton, Missouri. The team folded in May 2010 when English owners brought on by Cooper before the 2010 season stopped funding the team.

AC St. Louis (NASL) (2010)[edit]

Main article: AC St. Louis

Cooper also founded the AC St. Louis, which played its only season in 2010 in the NASL Conference of the temporary Division II Pro League. Wearing green, white, and yellow, A.C. St. Louis also played its home games at the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park. Its first coach was Claude Anelka, the older brother of French international striker Nicolas Anelka,[6] who was replaced by Dale Schilly midway through the season[7] as a consequence of the same ownership issues that doomed the Athletica. The club planned to join the new North American Soccer League in the 2011 season, but folded in January 2011[8] after USSF stopped backing the team's finances ad new owners were not found.

Ambush (MISL/MASL) (2013-)[edit]

The St. Louis Ambush is a professional indoor soccer team based in St. Charles, Missouri. The second team to use this name, the Ambush joined the Major Indoor Soccer League in 2013. In the 2013-14 season, their only season as members of the MISL, the Ambush posted 4-16 record. After the season, the team announced that it would leave the MISL, along with five other teams, to join the MASL.[9]

St. Louis FC (USL Pro) (2015-)[edit]

Main article: St. Louis FC

In May 2014, the Division III USL Pro league announced that an expansion franchise would begin play in the 2015 season at the St. Louis Soccer Park in Fenton.[10]

Major League Soccer expansion efforts[edit]

See also: MLS Expansion

In 1993, the new Major League Soccer league looked at St. Louis and 26 other cities for original franchises, but St. Louis did not ultimately submit a bid.

The city later made several unsuccessful efforts to land a franchise as Major League Soccer expanded from 10 teams in 2004 to 19 teams by 2012. In 2007, the Real Salt Lake team came close to moving to St. Louis until the Utah governor intervened to help build a stadium in Salt Lake City.[11] In 2008, efforts to establish an expansion team in the St. Louis suburb of Collinsville, Illinois, foundered when MLS awarded its 16th franchise to Philadelphia, which opened play in 2010. Later in 2008, St. Louis bid for one of two MLS expansion slots to enter the league in 2011. St. Louis was considered one of the early front runners,[12] due in part to the city's soccer history and a stadium plan.[13] But the St. Louis bid lacked an ownership group with deep pockets, and MLS awarded the expansion slots to Portland and Vancouver.

College[edit]

SLU Billikens (NCAA)[edit]

The Saint Louis University Billikens men's soccer team competes in the NCAA Division I in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and play at Hermann Stadium.

The Billikens were dominant in men's collegiate soccer during the late 1950s through the mid-1970s, the Billikens have won 10 NCAA Men's Soccer Championships, the most of any men's college soccer program. The SLU men's soccer team has made 16 NCAA Final Four appearances and has won 10 national championships. During their dynasty run from the 1960s through 1970s, the team was coached by Bob Guelker during their first five championships, who retired with an 89% winning percentage.[14] Harry Keough coached the last five championship teams. SLU had a winning streak of 19 games from 1969–70 and another winning streak of 24 games (including 14 consecutive road wins) during 1970-71, in addition to a 45 game unbeaten streak from 1969-71.[14]

Soccer is the main fall sport at SLU, which has not sponsored American football since 1949. The team consistently ranks among the top of all Division I soccer teams in attendance. The Billikens led the NCAA in average attendance for the 1999, 2001, and 2003 seasons.[15] Three of the four highest attended NCAA men's soccer regular-season matches of all time were between St. Louis University and SIU Edwardsville at Busch Stadium in St. Louis (22,512 in 1980, 20,122 in 1973, and 15,000 in 1972).[15]

The Billikens have not appeared in an NCAA national championship finals since 1974. Dan Donigan was the head coach from February 2001 until January 2010. Presently, the Billikens are coached by Mike McGinty.

Notable SLU soccer graduates — who went on to play for the U.S. national team or play Division I professional soccer — include Brian McBride and Mike Sorber.

Amateur teams[edit]

St. Louis Kutis circa 1954.

St. Louis hosted a number of strong amateur teams and leagues that were prominent before the modern professional era. Two teams in particular stand out, Simpkins-Ford and St. Louis Kutis.

Simpkins-Ford[edit]

Simpkins-Ford was an amateur team that went to the U.S. Open Cup in 1948 and 1950, and the team contributed several players to the U.S. national team that competed in the 1948 Olympics and the 1950 FIFA World Cup.[3]

St. Louis Kutis[edit]

Main article: St. Louis Kutis S.C.

St. Louis Kutis was one of the best soccer clubs in the country during the 1950s, winning six consecutive National Amateur Cup titles from 1956-1961. Kutis included prominent players Harry Keough, Bob Kehoe, and Bill Looby — each of whom landed in the Hall of Fame. The entire Kutis squad was selected for the roster for the U.S. national team in two qualifying matches for the 1958 FIFA World Cup.[3]

International friendlies[edit]

In May 2013, St. Louis hosted a friendly between Chelsea and Manchester City with a sell-out crowd of 48,000 at Busch Stadium.[16]

On August 10, 2013, Real Madrid and Inter Milan played a friendly at the Edward Jones Dome in front of 54,184 fans, a record attendance for a soccer match in St. Louis.[16]

On November 18, 2013, the national teams of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Argentina played a match at Busch Stadium. [17]

On May 30, 2014 Bosnia and Herzegovina also played at the Edward Jones Dome against Ivory Coast in the Road to Brazil series. [18]

Noted players[edit]

Every U.S. team in World Cup history has included at least one St. Louisan on its roster, and 29 St. Louisans have been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.[19]

The U.S. team for the 1950 World Cup, which defeated England 1-0 in one of the most noted upsets in World Cup history, had five of the eleven players on the team from St. Louis, including many from the historically Italian neighborhood of The Hill. This event was chronicled in the 2005 film The Game of Their Lives (released on DVD as The Miracle Match).

Several current or former Major League Soccer players are from St. Louis, including: Mike Sorber, Chris Klein, Pat Noonan, Jack Jewsbury, Matt Pickens, Brad Davis (#5 in MLS career assists), Steve Ralston (#1 in MLS career assists), Taylor Twellman (MLS MVP 2005), and Tim Ream.

St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame[edit]

The St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame, established in 1971, is located at the Midwest Soccer Academy and includes a museum with various exhibits.[19][20][21][22] The first annual dinner was held in 1971.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "MONDAY MORNING CENTERBACK: TIME FOR MLS TO ADD ST. LOUIS", Soccer By Ives, January 5, 2009.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b c "History of Soccer in St. Louis", David Litterer.
  4. ^ a b c d e Our St. Louis Steamers
  5. ^ "Ambush return to St. Louis", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 22, 2013.
  6. ^ It’s AC St. Louis
  7. ^ "Claude Anelka Relieved Of Coaching Duties", A.C. St. Louis, June 24, 2010. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  8. ^ "AC St. Louis Closes its Doors for Good", IMS Soccer News, January 17, 2011. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  9. ^ http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-04-14/sports/bal-baltimore-blast-joining-with-other-teams-to-form-new-indoor-soccer-league-20140414_1_new-league-misl-baltimore-blast
  10. ^ "USL PRO announces 2015 expansion to soccer hotbed St. Louis", MLSsoccer.com, May 1, 2014.
  11. ^ St. Louis Unfit For Current Round of MLS Expansion", Soccer Newsday, February 26, 2014.
  12. ^ "MONTREAL BOWS OUT OF MLS EXPANSION RACE", Soccer By Ives, November 21, 2008.
  13. ^ "Montreal in pole position for one of the expansion spots", ESPN FC, October 17, 2008.
  14. ^ a b SLU Record and History Book (2013)
  15. ^ a b NCAA Soccer Men’s Attendance Records, 2012.
  16. ^ a b "Real Madrid dominates Inter to close American tour", Sports Illustrated, August 10, 2013.
  17. ^ http://stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com/stl/ticketing/soccer.jsp
  18. ^ http://www.mlssoccer.com/worldcup/2014/news/article/2014/05/30/bosnia-herzegovina-vs-ivory-coast-road-brazil-international-friendly-preview
  19. ^ a b Homepage. St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  20. ^ Museum Renovation webpage. St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  21. ^ Our Location webpage. St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  22. ^ Our Museum webpage (including photos of exhibits). St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  23. ^ Our History webpage. St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 2011-06-05.