St. Louis and soccer are synonymous. No city in North America has as long a tradition, or as deep a heritage as St. Louis, Missouri, the soccer capital of America.
The history of soccer in St. Louis is also largely the history of soccer in America. Starting in the early years of the 20th Century St. Louis has fielded teams of the highest caliber. The city maintained its own professional league, and teams from St. Louis would go on to win national championships.
The first half of the 20th Century culminated in 1950 at the World Cup in Brazil. Five St. Louis natives would represent the United States, leading the U.S. to a historic 1-0 victory over England in Belo Horizonte on June 29. The victory would make the names; Harry Keough, Frank Borghi, Gino Pariani, Frank “Pee-Wee” Wallace and Charlie Columbo immortal in St. Louis. Another St. Louis native, Bob Annis, was also on the U.S. roster in Brazil but did not get to play.
The ensuing years saw clubs like Kutis rise to prominence not just in St. Louis soccer, but also in all of American soccer. In 1959, Saint Louis University began it’s men’s collegiate program, and the pipeline of local talent would lead them to win 10 of the first 15 NCAA National Championships in the sport.
St. Louis was a charter member of the North American Soccer League (NASL). The NASL’s St. Louis Stars pioneered a development policy that emphasized recruitment and development of local American talent. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s St. Louis was home to the amazingly popular St. Louis Steamers of the Major Indoor Soccer League. The Steamers routinely drew crowds of 18,000 plus to the Arena, making them one of the best-attended franchises in all of American sports.
As the 21st Century dawned St. Louis found itself without a viable professional soccer franchise. In to that void would step Jeff Cooper; a man with one simple mission statement – bring professional outdoor soccer back to St. Louis.
In 2008 the first part of that goal was realized when Saint Louis Athletica was formerly announced as an entry into the new Women’s Professional Soccer league WPS. On April 4, 2009, Saint Louis Athletica debuted in front of over 5,000 fans, and would clinch second place in the inaugural season of the WPS.
In June of 2009, the use of The Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park was conveyed to the company now known as the Athletic Club of St. Louis by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Now, with a facility to call its own, the Athletic Club of St. Louis shifted its base of operations to The Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park, and Saint Louis Athletica became the first professional team to call the venue home.
In November of 2009 the Athletic Club of St. Louis ushered in a new era of men’s professional soccer in St. Louis by announcing it would field a new team, AC St. Louis, in the USSF Division 2 Professional League. For the first time since 1976, St. Louis would have a truly professional outdoor men’s soccer team.
In February of 2010 AC St. Louis announced that Steve Ralston became the first player ever to officially sign with the club. Ralston joined AC St. Louis after becoming the career leader in games played, minutes played, and assists in Major League Soccer.
AC St. Louis begins play in April of 2010 and will be joined by pre-existing teams such as; the Vancouver Whitecaps, Miami FC, Carolina Railhawks, Atlanta Silverbacks, Montreal Impact, Rochester Rhinos, Portland Timbers, Puerto Rico Islanders, Austin Aztex, Tampa Bay Rowdies, and Minnesota Thunder.
The Athletic Club of St. Louis is proud to supply the St. Louis community with two professional franchises. No other community in America is as deserving of this kind of representation, and no other community is capable of supporting two world-class soccer franchises.