May 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Yankees president Randy Levine (left) , Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber (middle) and Manchester City FC chief executive officer Ferran Soriano pose for a photo after announcing the formation of the New York City Football Club as the 20th team in Major League Soccer. The team will begin play in the 2015 season. Mandatory Credit: MLS via USA TODAY Sports

Soccer in Saint Louis

The Cardinals pitching mound was ripped out for the first time in Busch Stadium III’s lifetime.  The surgery happened this week to create a soccer field for two of the best football clubs in the world.   Many of the most elite  and recognizable athletes on the planet will be playing at Busch stadium Thursday night, which has never happened before.

There are a few things that make tomorrow’s football match between powerhouses Chelsea FC and Manchester City a big deal.  Sorry haters, there is more than one great game that millions of people worship.

Football comes from England, and to mess with the Brits we call it soccer.  Their game, whatever you want to call it, can end in a tie, but it is on national television in the mornings on this side of the pond.  Sure they fake injuries, scream at referees and slap each other in “fights”, but these athletes are no doubt world class.

Manchester City is the crosstown foe of the Yankee-like Manchester United, and recently City has been a legitimate contender.  Chelsea has been incredibly successful so far this century, especially last year, when they won both the UEFA and FA Cups.

Tomorrows exhibition would be like the Cardinals playing the Dodgers in London, except the seats are going to be filled.  Tickets to Thursday’s game at Busch sold out in 20 minutes!  Holy Schnikes!

The reason for that extremity dates back to the 80’s when Fenton, MO was a thriving town.  There was still the Chrysler plant and the United States Mens Soccer team headquarters north of highway 44.  It was right on the way to  Six Flags.  When I was older, I got to play there, which was an amazing experience.   St. Louis was “The Soccer Capital of America”, and I was proud of that.  There is still the renowned St. Louis Soccer Club there now.

Arena soccer’s almighty St. Louis Steamers, then Storm never really took off like McDonnell Douglass’ jets sporting TWA’s  Cardinals colors.  But with tens of thousands of St. Louis area youths kicking and heading balls, it is shocking that the MLS and The Gateway to the West  (home of countless soccer stars) never struck a deal in the past two decades.  A new era might be starting in 2013.

What is more important than local history are recent MLS events.

No one in St. Louis gives a bag of unsalted peanuts about MLS, maybe I am stereotyping, but I am pretty sure that MLS jersey sales at The Galleria are low.  That is because there is no STL Flood (copyright pending) jerseys, or dare I say it, Soccer Cardinals shirts.

The last city to host teams from the English Premier League at a baseball stadium was New York, and yesterday the Big Apple made a gigantic deal to get things cracking between Man City and the Yanks.  A new stadium with lots of jobs and future revenue.

The MLS is in no way the EPL.  But with the success of some MLS teams like Seattle  LA, Houston, Chicago and Columbus, something appears to be brewing.  The MLS has evolved into a decent league for footballers (soccer players).  There have been legends like David Beckham and Thierre Henry who have joined the MLS, as well as domestic talents like Landon Donovan.  To make a  comparison, the MLS is almost as good as the Mexican league, which is why many players go back and forth between the two neighboring nations premiere football leagues.

At this time what is sad is that the best American footballers are going to Europe because the competition and paychecks are bigger.  Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the MLS will continue to grow.  Including a city that sells out a friendly game in less than half of the game time to an EPL preseason game, would be a smart idea.

Could STL be next to join the party?  It ought to be, as long as a proper roofless/retractable stadium can be constructed ,and it isn’t  connected to a convention center.

***The news of the night for the Birdinals:  Congratulations to Tyler Lyons for earning his first big league win and hit. He is one of three rookies (Shelby Miller, Seth Maness, John Gast) who have combined for 11 wins.

Damn it feels good to be a Cardinal.




Tags: Busch Stadium MLB St. Louis

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