Oh St. Louis City…

| Senior Multimedia Editor

Fans mingle outside CityPark before the start of a friendly match between Bayer Leverkusen and St. Louis City SC’s City2 at CityPark in St. Louis on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. (Photo by David Carson, Post-Dispatch)

St. Louis takes its sports seriously. The Cardinals continually rank in the top three MLB teams for average attendance, beating out every team except the Dodgers last year. The energy inside the Enterprise Center after a Blues goal can get even the uninterested fan out of their seat to sing and cheer. For a mid-size market, St. Louis fans’ commitment to their sports team is astonishingly high. 

For the first time since the Rams returned to Los Angeles, St. Louis fans will have three professional teams to cheer for with the introduction of soccer team St. Louis City SC (STLSC). I was fortunate enough to attend an exhibition match between STLSC and the German team Bayern Leverkusen last fall at the awe-inspiring CITYPARK stadium. Despite temperatures dipping below freezing during the game, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the STLSC game. Here are a few reasons that everyone from a weekly Champions League viewer to someone brand new to soccer should make their way over to CITYPARK:

The energy is contagious

 If you have never been to a professional soccer match, games are unlike any other sport in the US. For one, every soccer team has a group of “ultras” or really, really passionate fans. They stand and sing for the entire game, often waving flags or beating drums. The St. Louligans are the official supporter group for STLSC and after just a few minutes, you’ll be chanting “Oh St. Louis City” over and over again. However the passion doesn’t end with the St. Louligans, it starts with them. STLSC set the MLS record for amount of season ticket deposits placed within 24 hours, showing the widespread support the team has from the city. While expectations on the field remain modest, the fan experience is enough to justify going. 

CITYPARK is gorgeous

The nearly $460 million dollar development by Union Station is testament to the growth of soccer in the US. The beautiful red accent lights on the white stadium at night. The stadium’s depth and angle of setting mean that no seat is more than 120 feet from the field, bringing fans closer to the action. Additionally, the stadium’s urban setting means that it is metro accessible and seamlessly flows into the city landscape. Lastly, the culinary options that exist at CITYPARK help weave the culture of STL into the team. Local favorites like Balkan Treat Box and Farmtruk have locations inside the main concourse of the stadium. The intimate and modern feel of the stadium is key to supporting the vibrant fan experience. 

Professional soccer in the US is gaining popularity and notoriety 

The 2022 Men’s World Cup Final attracted record audiences in the US, with over 25 million fans tuning in to watch on an early Saturday morning. MLS ratings have continued to increase year over year and youth soccer participation is growing faster than any other sport in the US. The rise in popularity has translated into substantive developments on the field for the MLS. Major stars in the prime of their careers are making the move to MLS in order to bolster their career resumes. All this is to say that the quality of soccer played at CITYPARK is going to rise and bring up the fan experience with it. While the analytics predict a rather unsuccessful season for STLSC, that’s not uncommon for an expansion team in its first season. Becoming an MLS fan this early on will be a worthwhile investment as the league continues to develop. Sports become so much more interesting to watch when you follow the team and have a vested interest in its outcome. 

In order to temper the expectations I’ve likely set too high, there are a few things to note about going to an STLSC game. One, tickets are going to be overpriced for this first season. Given the high volume of season ticket deposits, demand for tickets is high and the supply is well, fixed at 22,500. Second, there are still logical elements that a team has to work through during their first season, on and off the pitch. Issues with crowd control and utilities have been an issue in test runs of the stadium previously. Additionally, as mentioned above, many pundits have already counted STLSC out of the playoff picture heading into this year. So, if you are a self-described fair weather fan, this might not be the best year to go. 

Nonetheless, make it your mission to get to a game at some point before your time at Washington University is over. St Louis is often described as one of the original soccer towns in America. Two U.S. World Cup starters are from the greater St. Louis region. Getting an MLS team is, in many ways, recognition of St. Louis’s commitment to their teams. WashU students should be a part of that support going forward.

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