Too Many Teams, Too Little Time…
Supporters Groups exist, usually, to support a team- singular. Sure there are exceptions. An SG might also support their team’s women’s side or reserves- but usually all the focus is directed at one team. That’s how we started. AC St. Louis of the NASL was THE focus for the St. Louligans (and the earlier groups that comprised our membership). Sure, we had our sister club the Athletica, but Laclede’s Army was their SG. There was overlap in membership, but we existed to support AC STL. Then they folded. (and so did Athletica)
So we decided to keep doing our thing and at the time the only natural team to support was the St. Louis Lions of the USL-PDL. Sure it was a couple rungs lower on the US Soccer ladder, but it was a team. Our goal was to have some fun, support a team and maybe be ready should the Lions move up the ladder or if another pro team came to town. Obviously we all want a St. Louis MLS team, but we’re realistic. Any pro team will get our support. We also want to be a presence and show any potential soccer investors or owners that there is a fan base. Small but Loud. The Lions have ambitionsto move up and so that’s where we’ve planted our roots. That’s not to say things are perfect in Lionland. We have the same sorts of issues a lot of supporters groups have with front offices, but we’re making it work.
Things were easy then. 1 group, 1 team. Then along came the Illinois Piasa. Matt Williams (GM and sometime owner) of the Illinois Piasa indoor soccer team of the PASL made contact with a couple of our members and asked us to come check out his PRO team across the river. Many of us are outdoor soccer fans and have only a passing interest in indoor, but some are also big fans of the indoor game. We decided it would be something fun to do in the off season (the USL-PDL season is VERY short) and we could get together and have a few beers. The thing is, Piasa really liked us. They created an atmosphere that was perfect for our silliness. They actually encouraged us to get wilder and crazier. It was a lot of fun. So, even though we’re primarily an outdoor soccer group, we consider Piasa to be family. Its great to do in the off season and Matt has become a part of the Louligans. There’s even some talk that they’re going to buy us a boat just in case something happens and we need to be able to get into international waters. (yes, that’s an inside joke- come to a Piasa game and ask us about the boat.) So then we had 2 teams to support.
Enter Fire & Ice SC. I don’t even know how it happened, but somehow Lindsay Kennedy Eversmeyer got in touch with us and invited us out to watch her new WPSL team that she owned and coached- Fire & Ice SC. Like Piasa, they get what we’re about and encourage it. We also have Athletica fans that longed for the return of women’s soccer so it was a nice addition. Yes they cater to families too, but they made a section for crazy fans and wanted us to be the ringleaders. They promote us almost as much as we promote them. They told their fans about us and suggested the crazier ones join us in our section. Plus we renamed the team the Britneys and they laughed. They understand silly. The WPSL season does overlap with the USL-PDL season, but as long as there isn’t a gameday conflict we also support Fire & Ice. So now we have 3 teams.
You can see where this is going. Most of us have spouses and kids. Full time jobs. General life obligations. Etc. We start to run out of weekends. So now what to do with new teams? The big local news in St. Louis soccer last summer was the imminent return of the St. Louis Ambush of the MISL. A lot of people in our group grew up with the Ambush and had positive memories of their glory days. So, would we also be an Ambush supporter group? Well, kind of. The Ambush approached us early and we discussed having a St. Louligan section. The price was pretty steep for season tickets. As mentioned earlier- most of us are outdoor soccer fans and the price of season tickets for the Ambush was more than Lions, Piasa and Fire & Ice season tickets put together. That’s a lot of money. Some of our members did buy season tickets or partial season tickets and some will take in the occasional game, but we don’t have a real structured presence at the Ambush matches. It may change, but for the time being that’s just what it is. We wish them well and always will. I’m sure we’ll come out and have fun, but its not gonna be like Lions or Piasa matches. And the Ambush don’t really need us either. They’re doing great. They had over 7,000 fans at their opener and have had over 4,000 at the other 2 home games they’ve played. They seem to be marketing more toward families and soccer moms and it’s working great for them. Side note, at their home opener a small group of Louligans was there and got reprimanded for moving into a luxury suite that they didn’t have tickets for. It was a funny story, but obviously they don’t appreciate how silly works. Piasa and Fire & Ice would have just changed the name of the section for us. Again, they do things differently and that’s ok. So, yes, you will see Louligans at Ambush games, but probably not in big numbers.
Another new team coming this summer is the St. Louis
Defenders, City SC, Reinas. They’re in the WPSL with Fire & Ice. I’m sure some of our members will go out and support them. They’re in St. Louis City which is important to some members and again- we want all soccer teams in St. Louis to be successful. But, most of us have already formed an attachment to F&I. The Reinas have not reached out to us or formed any sort of relationship, but its going to be hard to beat the hospitality we’ve been shown by Lindsay & the rest of the Fire & Ice coaches and players. And there’s one thing we know, “you don’t piss on hospitality!” (sorry, inside joke. Watch Troll 2 if you need to know.)
And the teams just keep on coming. In the lead up to the Bosnia/Argentina friendly we became aware that a new NPSL team was forming in St. Louis and scheduled to start play this summer, FC Bordo. NPSL is equal to USL-PDL in the US Soccer pyramid. This team has a Bosnian bent, but they’ve contacted some of our members and are very open to having us out there and want a supporter culture at their new club. We’ll see how it goes. Their schedule will have conflicts with the Lions, but I’m sure their City location will draw some of our members and maybe the atmosphere will be better than the Lions games. It’s hard to tell this far in advance, but we’ll give them a chance.
All this is to say, it’s difficult to be a supporters group without a team and it can be difficult to be a supporters group with too many teams. Sometimes I feel like our membership is getting fractured by all these different teams. The bottom line is, there is no “right” way to be a Louligan. There will be no mandate that you have to support one team over another. All we ask is that you get out and support local soccer. In a perfect world we’d have one team we could all get behind, but this isn’t a perfect world. What I hope is that among the 6 teams we have you’ll find at least one that you can fully get behind. Maybe you can be a leader of that group of Louligans.
Of course, we’re also living on rumors that we’ll be getting a USL-Pro team. We’ve talked to the Lions front office and know that there is some truth to the rumors. It may happen or it may not, but if it does I think most of us will rally around that team. I like to call them the Chupacabras, but that name has not officially been announced. I also like to point out that its never been officially denied. So, keep hope alive. This time next year we could be gearing up for Chupacabra season. Until then, I hope you’ll passionately support St. Louis soccer, whatever that means to you.
Finally, we’ve received some criticism for not supporting any of the great college teams we have in and around St. Louis. Again, I’d love to be everywhere, but its just not possible. You will see Louligans at different college games, but how could we possibly pick just one. Different people have allegiances to different colleges and I’m not about to get into the middle of some alumni rivalry. But seriously, there are a lot of great college programs and if you have time I highly recommend you check them out. The St. Louligans currently have too many teams to support as it is so we won’t be officially backing any one college team. But as always- we encourage you to do your part to support local soccer. If there’s not a supporters group of your favorite college team, start one. We’d be happy to spread the word and help you attract new members, just let us know the details.
So while some people bitch about what the Louligans don’t do, I like to focus on all the great things we happen to do well. (and I didn’t even mention our work tailgating for the big friendlies that came to town this year or our relationship with American Outlaws- STL) I hope you’ll find a place in our group and I hope to see you at a game and share a few beers. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for following us on facebook, twitter and listening to our podcasts. We’re just trying to do our part to show that St. Louis soccer has a future as well as a glorious past.
Brad DeMunbrun, Vice President of Silly Hats & Poorly Written Web Articles