What I mean by that is that things are about to get real around St. Louis. Last night I and several St. Louligans and even more general season ticket holders for St. Louis FC attended a get together at Soccer Park. KTRS 550 was kicking off their new partnership with the team by doing a live broadcast from the event. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is happening. In 6 months St. Louis FC will be taking the field. Pro Outdoor Soccer is returning to St. Louis in the form of USL Pro.
When AC STL (NASL) folded at the end of the 2010 season the St. Louligans numbers dwindled. It was hard to get the 500 or so that had been to at least a couple games in Section 20 to stick around when our biggest team was the St. Louis Lions an amateur USL-PDL club based in St. Charles. But a few of us hung on and continued to work and hope that professional soccer would return. And now it’s coming back and we’ve laid the groundwork for hardcore fans and we’re opening our arms to welcome new people and welcome old friends back.
Since 2010 Soccer Supporter Culture has exploded across the country in all leagues. Where once soccer teams marketed solely to soccer moms and kids that play, it’s become increasingly important for teams to have a vibrant and passionate supporters group (or groups). We know that Timber’s Army in Portland and the ECS in Seattle have shown the way for other markets to grow their brand by attracting young (and old) fans that want to make some noise and have some fun by bonding with the team. Now every team that comes into existence is expected to have a rowdy section. Fans that give it all for their team and inspire the players to keep fighting. This is OUR team and we want you to join us. No matter who you are- if you’re passionate then you’re needed. The Louligans currently number around 125 active members (some more active than others), but we expect that number to explode by the first kick of the 2015 season.
Buy your season tickets and select the General Admission section if you want to stand with us. (It’s easy, just click here.) Once we get a little closer to the season there will be an event where you can select what section you want to be in. We’ll be in section 8 closest to the scoreboard. Hopefully we’ll have enough demand that we’ll take section 9 & 10 too. The atmosphere will be a little more crazy in the Corner so we recommend that families with young kids maybe choose the opposite side of the GA stands. We don’t want to offend little ears with the occasional blue language. We do police ourselves and we’ll get rid of troublemakers, but there is room for some PG-13 silliness in our section. If you’re not sure, sit somewhere in the middle, you can always drift down to our area if you like what you see & hear.
In addition to making the corner as crazy and loud as we can, we also want to engage the entire park. We’ll do it with TIFO displays, coordinated chants and songs, call & response cheers and just encouraging everyone in the park to get as loud as we do. No matter where you sit in the park and what kind of fan you are- we hope you’ll appreciate what we do. You can be a quiet Louligan. Support your team any way you see fit. We can all do this and make it special.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. Major League Soccer. Whenever we talk about soccer with people, they want to know when St. Louis will get an MLS team. Some people only want to see the highest level of sports and will criticize USL Pro because it’s not MLS. Here’s the thing, if you don’t support soccer at this level we’ll never get anything bigger. Not counting NYCFC or the Miami Beckham project, the last several markets to get MLS teams have proven themselves at the lower levels of the US Soccer pyramid- on the field and in the stands. Seattle played in USL. Portland, Vancouver, Montreal and Atlanta were NASL markets. Orlando City is making the jump from USL Pro next season. The leading candidates for the remaining spot in MLS’ expansion plan are Sacramento Republic (USL Pro) & Minnesota (NASL).
I’m happy and thankful to have pro soccer back in St. Louis at the USL Pro level and we’re going to see a lot of talented young players in St. Louis, but if you want more you’ve got to support this now. Just looking at Orlando City who started in USL Pro with the goal of moving to MLS and Sacramento Republic and their “Built For MLS” campaign- two things are vital to both of those movements. Win games and pack stadiums. Orlando has won big every season since they started and had a loud fanbase. Sacramento started this season with 4 games averaging 20,000 fans. The brand new 8,000 seat stadium that was just completed has already been outgrown and they’re in the championship game next Saturday. Soccer Park has a capacity of 6,000. Our goal is to make the front office of STL FC have to expand the capacity of their stadium. IF we’re not selling out every game then we’re not doing our job as fans.
Like I said, I’m happy to be at the USL Pro level and am looking forward to being the best USL Pro team in the country. You’ll notice that in interviews our front office and owners always say the goal is to win USL Pro. Let’s not focus on MLS, let’s focus on what’s real right now. I’m looking forward to a packed park and making St. Louis a market that players want to play in and fear to come into as visitors. If we take care of all that then good things will happen.
Last week MLS pulled a re-brand with a new logo. After some initial criticism the new logo has been adopted by fans and transformed to uniquely fit their team. Some of the best ones are on reddit. I even made one in STL FC colors (like a lot of lower league teams have). Its fun to dream big and think about one day, but I’m hoping you all realize that our time is now. Let’s put St. Louis Soccer back on the map. Let’s pack the park. Let’s have some fun.
Brad- Vice President of Silly Hats