Is It time for St.Louis to Give up on the NFL in favor of an MLS team?
By Al Fannell
The St.Louis rams will begin their 20th and perhaps their last season and things have gotten off the wrong foot with only 37,000 fans showing up during their home preseason football games at the Edward Jones Dome against the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs. Granted it was only preseason football that featured a lot of players who won’t make the team, but clearly the attendance of both games will be used by Stan Kroenke, the owner the Rams who help move the team from Los Angeles in 1995, will use this to justify moving the team back to L.A. Football in St. Louis has had many ups during the 1970’s of the Air Don Coryell St. Louis Football Cardinals to The Greatest Show on Turf Rams who won the Super Bowl during the 1999 season. But football in St. Louis has had too many down years; from 1960 to 1987 the Football Cardinals only went to the post-season 3 times and never hosted a playoff game, in which the team move to Arizona follow the 1987 season. While the Rams only have 4 winning seasons and have not had a winning season since 2003.
Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz were appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon 2 years ago to create a stadium task force to build a 1 billion dollar stadium in hopes to keep the Rams in St.Louis or at least bring another NFL team to St. Louis such as the Raiders or the Jaguars, but there’s no guarantee the NFL owners will allow the city a third chance of another franchise, which begs the question “Is it time for St. Louis to Give up on the NFL in favor of a Major League Soccer team? Josh Shippie, a local writer wrote about the idea of bringing a Major League Soccer team to St.Louis and letting the Rams move back to L.A, back in July. “ An MLS team could tap into that fan base and draw a loyal following that could rival any MLS squad. In American football, fan bases can lose interest rather quickly, but not in actual football. Actual football fans are supporters for life, through thick and thin. Look at NYCFC and their floundering first season, which has not at all deterred fans from raucously voicing their opinions about the MLS’s newest child.”
During the 2015 Women’s World Cup St.Louis were consistency ranked in the top three viewership according to Nielsen ratings. Bringing a Major League Soccer club to St. Louis could add more value to the city that already has a rich history that goes back to the early 20th Century. The U.S. Men’s World Cup team in 1950 which pulled off one of the great in World Cup Soccer History against England 1-0, had five of the eleven players on the from the historic Italian town The Hill neighborhood in St. Louis. There are currently 29 players from St.Louis that have been inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame and several current or former players played in the MLS, like Mike Sorber, Matt Pickens, Brad Davis, Taylor Twellman, TIm Ream and Steve Ralston. The St.Louis Steamers of the old Major Indoor Soccer League played at the old Arena from 1979 to 1988 and at one point the team out drew the St.Louis Blues in four consecutive season in 1980-82 through 1983-84. The city currently have two pro soccer team The St. Louis Ambush, that plays in the Major Arena Soccer League and Saint Louis FC that are playing their first outdoor season under the United Soccer League, which is a Minor League team affiliated with the Chicago Fire. Both franchises have done well with their attendance averaging between 4,000-6,000 fans. In the past St.Louis has hosted friendly matches at Busch Stadium, most recently in April the U.S. Women’s National team played against New Zealand and will host another International Friendly when the U.S. Men’s teams plays in November.
As the Missouri State Legislators grapple the cost of the stadium, time is in the essence on whether Stadium Task Force lead by Dave Peacock can come up with funding for the new stadium at the Riverfront in downtown St.Louis in hopes in keeping the Rams. If not then Peacock should focus on building a Soccer Specific Stadium that would cost a lot less than the current billion dollar stadium. In the last 16 years Major League Soccer have seen the birth of Soccer Specific Stadiums which started in 1999 when the Columbus Crew played their first home games and have hosted U.S. Friendly International match since it was built.
The price ranges are that can be privately funded, cost around $90 million to 300 million dollars and could play host to International Friendly Matches, such as the U.S. Women’s or Men’s soccer matches. St.Louis is the second largest Midwest city that doesn’t have a Major League Soccer team. The value of an MLS team in St.Louis could end up ranking within the 5 in of the currently 20 teams in the league if a team is awarded in the next couple of years. Also the city could end up with the National Women’s Soccer league which saw a huge increase of fans after the success of the U.S. Women’s National Team, winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. Early this past summer Saint Louis FC played Sporting Kansas City in front of a packed sell out crowd in Kansas City, imaged if the two teams played each other year after year in St.Louis? The two cities can continue with the I-70 derby in which the both towns could reap the benefits of a natural soccer rivalry match. While Dave Peacock and The Stadium Task Force tries in to come up with funding for a new stadium, he might want to consider as a backup plan and bring in another sport to St.Louis. While losing another NFL team for the second time in less than 30 years would be a huge black eye for the city, a Major League Soccer team could heal the wounds and would generate a brand new fan base in Part of Missouri and Southern Illinois.