St. Louis City SC: St. Louis’s hottest new ticket on and off the field

and | Sports Editors

St. Louis City SC celebrates a goal in front of a home crowd at CITYPARK Stadium. (Photo courtesy of MLS)

When Major League Soccer (MLS) announced St. Louis as the site for its newest expansion team in 2019, most Washington University students likely paid little attention to the news. Now, almost four years later, it’s nearly impossible to walk around Mudd Field without seeing the navy-blue and pinkish red hues of St. Louis City SC’s (STLSC) logo on hats, sweatshirts, and more. STLSC, which started MLS play just over a month ago, has quickly taken the city, the league, and WashU’s campus by storm.

While it can be easy for fans to rally around a new team, it’s even easier for them to rally around a new team that’s shattering records and expectations every chance they get. Entering the season, MLS predictions varied widely, but one feature was constant: STLSC near the bottom of projected standings. However, after the first six games of their inaugural season, STLSC sits at the top of the league, boasting more points than each of the 28 other MLS franchises. 

Although they faltered for the first time when they lost 0-1 to an undefeated Minnesota United side on Sunday, their 5-0-1 record (15 points) and +10 goal differential to start the season are both the best in the league. In addition, the five-game winning streak in their inaugural season is setting new standards for MLS expansion sides, breaking the record that the Seattle Sounders had held since their 3-0-0 start in 2009. 

The side has relied on a variety of players to lead the charge. They have started different lineups in all six games, although a few stars are already standing out. Striker João Klauss, a 26-year-old from Brazil, scored or assisted in STLSC’s first five matches — including an 86th-minute winner in the side’s first game against Austin FC. Central midfielder Eduard Löwen, who floated around the German Bundesliga before moving to the States, is making an impact, too. In addition to scoring the go-ahead-goal in the home opener against Charlotte FC, the German leads the team with three assists. Finally, 32-year-old Roman Bürki, a Swiss goalkeeper who starred at Borussia Dortmund for most of his career, has been vital between the sticks. Prior to Minnesota United’s late goal, the STLSC defense had gone 345 consecutive minutes without conceding.

While the play on the field has been incredible, the stadium surrounding it has also received raving reviews. The 22,500-seat venue — which cost nearly 460 million dollars to develop — is located downtown in close proximity to Union Station and Gateway Park. 

“I really enjoyed the experience of watching a game at CITYPARK,” said first-year student Matt Eisner, who described the stadium as “absolutely beautiful.” In his visit to a game for STL City 2 — STLSC’s academy squad that competes in the MLS Next Pro League — Eisner quickly fell in love with the stadium. No seat at the stadium is more than 120 feet from the action, a detail that Eisner noticed.

“I sat in the 13th row, but I felt like I was sitting right next to the action. The sightlines are incredible, and the stadium atmosphere is extremely intimate,” he said.

Fans are packing the stadium, selling out the venue in all three of the team’s opening home games. While the crowds contribute to a great atmosphere, they also drive up ticket prices. According to SeatGeek, the official ticketing partner of STLSC, CITYPARK has had considerably higher ticket prices than the rest of the MLS. Although most teams in the MLS have average ticket prices in the $30-40 range, STLSC’s average entering the season was $73, $15 more than the next-closest competitor. And due to enthusiasm about the squad’s hot start, prices have increased even more. Currently, the lowest prices listed on SeatGeek’s website for the team’s remaining April home games are about $110. 

Although the price is high, the team is able to rely on passionate fans and the city’s incredible soccer culture to maintain demand for the games. In addition to the massive community of local soccer fans, WashU students from across the country are eager to join the ranks of STLSC’s spirited fanbase. 

“People here really care about their teams, and support for City is radiating across the region,” Eisner said. “I tried to watch the first STLSC game at Llywelyn’s in Webster Groves, but when my friends and I tried to get a table half an hour before kickoff, there was already a three-hour long wait.”

For many years, the St. Louis soccer community was a sleeping giant among American fanbases. Known colloquially as “America’s First Soccer Capital,” the city has produced talented players such as US Women’s National Team captain Becky Sauerbrunn, Men’s World Cup starters Tim Ream and Josh Sargent, and former MLS star and TV commentator Taylor Twellman. Although St. Louis lacked a professional soccer team to rally behind, its fanbase persisted. Now that the city finally has a team to call its own, the fans packing CITYPARK are making viewers across the country wonder why it took MLS so long to give the Gateway City a top-tier team.

Sophomore Mordecai Ethapemi — just like Eisner — has already become enthralled by the passionate soccer community of St. Louis. Ethapemi said one of the best attributes of the expansion team is that “It opens up the avenue to take a look at local talent,” such as WashU alum Sergio Rivas. Rivas, a 22-year-old right back, joined the STLSC 2 developmental side after leaving WashU and is a regular contributor to the squad.

Although he is from Maryland, Ethapemi is now closely following the team. Just like many other WashU students, he has added a game at CITYPARK to his St. Louis bucket list.

“The team poses a great opportunity for St. Louis,” he said. “[St. Louis] had a huge culture that kind of went out because [it] had no MLS teams for a while. Now it’s back, and it’s exciting to see how much it’s brought back this feeling of community, and really pushed the St. Louis soccer community out of the void.”

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