We begin with the wonderful words of the visionary leader who made it all possible: Carolyn Kindle, the owner, president, and CEO of St. Louis City SC.
“It is sort of like Christmas Eve, because Christmas Day obviously is March 4 when we’re having our first match at our stadium, so I think I’m just excited for my team,” Kindle said when speaking at a recent MLS Season Pass launch event. “It’s been countless hours, sleepless nights, and being able to finally celebrate all of this coming together, it’s worth it from that perspective.”
It’s almost here, the day that St. Louis-area sports fans and its fervent soccer community has longed for: an MLS franchise to call our own. The countdown is nearly over. The waiting was worth it – yes, despite the years and decades of frustration, futility and fallen hopes in the exhausting quest for MLS membership.
The hardest part is over. No more setbacks. No more sadness. Fantasy is now a fact: the MLS is here, and the MLS will stay. The past disappointment has faded – replaced by heartbeats of excitement, pride, and joy.
There will be no more betrayals, no more back-stabbing scoundrels, no more hit-and-run money grabs by carpetbaggers. This isn’t the no-soul NFL. This is a franchise is owned by St. Louisans, for St. Louisans.
In what will be one of the most exciting sporting events STL history, St. Louis City SC will play its first-ever home match on Saturday night at the magnificent CITYPARK.
Let’s do a quick review:
* Carolyn Kindle: Perfect.
* CITYPARK: Perfect.
* The nine-strong majority female ownership group who put up the $200 million in expansion fees and spent $460 million to make St. Louis City the 29th MLS team: Perfect.
* St. Louis having the league’s first women-led ownership group: Perfect.
* The Taylor Family and ownership partner Jim Kavanaugh: Perfect.
* City SC’s “Pillars of the Valley” homage: Perfect. The work by nationally acclaimed artist Damon Davis honors the memory of the 20,000 predominantly Black residents who were displaced from the Mill Creek Valley neighborhood as part of an urban renewal project in the late 1950s.
* The franchise’s clear commitment to being a caring community partner: Perfect.
* The pulsating spirit and inspiration within a fan base that will be a prominent presence and the co-star in the show that’s about to begin: Perfect.
* The branding of the franchise including the kits worn by the players: Perfect.
* The creation of a dynamic entertainment and all-encompassing soccer, home-game experience, led by Matt Sebek: Perfect.
* The Vibe: Perfect.
* The obvious impact on the Downtown West section of St. Louis: perfect, with more and more businesses setting up around a glorious soccer venue that’s already is turning into a hub.
* STL City SC’s role in providing a positive energy rush for “The Lou,” which needs a boost: Perfect.
* MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s unbreakable faith in St. Louis: Perfect.
* The food and drink choices inside CITYPARK: Perfect.
* The St. Louligans and other supporters’ groups: Perfect.
* The planning and preparation put in by sporting director Lutz Pfannenstiel, coach Bradley Carnell, and an endearing, underdog squad of players: Perfect. Hey, last week the boys won in a stunning upset at Austin and are 1-0. Well, that’s a perfect record. Right?
I hope City wins a bunch of games in its inaugural season. But off the field, we’ve already scored the biggest triumph there is: an MLS franchise that is vibrant, loyal, dedicated to setting a high standard of excellence, and already in line with STL’s distinguished soccer heritage.
The St. Louis soccer connection between past-present-future is renewed and strengthened Saturday night when City SC opens a highly anticipated new era in front of its home crowd.
“You can feel the positive energy in that town around that team. I’m excited to see what that looks like on gameday as they host Charlotte,” said St. Louisan Pat Noonan, who coaches FC Cincinnati, in an interview with MLS.com. “I imagine it’s going to be an electric atmosphere. And as a St. Louis native, it’s just really neat for our town to now have a Major League Soccer team and have more of the eyes globally on our city and the history.”
Noonan will see it for himself when FC Cincy travels to play at St. Louis on Saturday, April 15.
Thursday, I interviewed Taylor Twellman on my KFNS radio show. You know him. You love him. You’ve definitely heard him talk about soccer. Twellman is one of the greatest soccer talents produced by our town. He’s the best soccer analyst in our nation. Twellman will be in the Apple TV + booth, working the assignment he’s been waiting for: calling the first MLS home game in his hometown.
To open our conversation I told Twellman I think he’s so fired up for Saturday’s rollout – and so proud of his hometown – I expect him to fly out of his chair and hover above the pitch and the seating areas, waving to his peoples.
“You may be right about that,” Twellman said with a laugh. “You’re going to have to remind me that this isn’t a dream. I think Saturday morning when I wake up to get my coffee and breakfast, someone is going to have to remind me, four or five times throughout the day, that this isn’t a dream.”
Twellman spoke of the generations of STL soccer players, coaches, clubs, and families. And how much it means to them. And the arrival of St. Louis City SC will extend and enrich the legacies of the import soccer figures that have passed from this earth. They were the pioneers. The founders. The folks who put St. Louis on the map as the U.S. birthplace of soccer.
“Listen, I’ve said this a numerous amount of times, I’m just a figurehead for every generation of players that represented this city, represented what this culture is about,” Twellman said. “When they kicked off against Austin for the first match in franchise history, there was a professional soccer player in the city of St. Louis in his 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40, 30s, 20s and now teens.”
According to local soccer historian Dave Lange, St. Louis has played soccer since the 1870s and has been the home of 90 national champions, 76 players on the U.S. National Team, and 34 members enshrined in U.S. national soccer halls of fame.
“I’m just doing my job, and my job is to be an ambassador of the game,” Twellman said. “But my passion, my love – even though I’ve been away from St. Louis for 21 years now – this city raised me, this city made me, and I can’t believe that I can now finally say that it will be an international city because the Taylor family (led by Kindle) put money where my mouth has always been.”
“And I’ve bragged about this city, I’ve said to anyone that wanted to listen, that St. Louis will put this league on the map internationally, for what they have regarding academies, an understanding of what the game means to this city and the fabric of this city. Saturday night is going to be something special.”
It’s been perfect so far.
Can you improve on perfection?
I think you can.
A win by St. Louis City SC on Saturday night before a raucous and adoring home crowd on soccer’s sacred land would do it.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz
Dave Lange recently released his updated version of “Soccer Made in St. Louis,” with a new 2nd Edition. It’s published by Reedy Press and is available online. It’s highly recommended reading for area soccer fans.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.