ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – If the dominos fall in favor of St. Louis being awarded a Major League Soccer franchise, lead ESPN soccer analyst, Taylor Twellman believes this city will be the region’s most attractive soccer city.
Although he may have some hometown bias, he knows the landscape of soccer in the US as well as anyone. In an interview on KMOX Thursday night, he guaranteed that if the proposed soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis is built, St. Louis will be at the top of U.S. Soccer’s list when looking for hosts of international competition.
“In a must-win game, where is the United States gonna go in this country where they know 100 percent of that stadium is red, white and blue? St. Louis, Missouri will be at the top of that list,” Twellman says.
The U.S. Men’s National team did play a 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying at Busch Stadium in November 2015. The 6-1 win over St. Vincent & The Grenadines was the first time a World Cup qualifier was played in the St. Louis area since the USA’s 0-0 tie with El Salvador in 1989, played at Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.
But that doesn’t happen until the initial steps are taken by the city of St. Louis, and it’s voters. The vote on a partial funding plan of the soccer-specific downtown stadium will be on the April 4 ballot for St. Louis City residents.
If that plan is passed then St. Louis’ chances of being awarded a MLS franchise to start in the 2020 or 2022 seasons are all but guaranteed.
Twellman called the possible franchise, owned by the SC STL group, a ‘home run’ that would eventually be in the ‘upper echelon of the MLS.’ He pointed out the trend of popular MLS teams stemming from markets without an NFL team, including: Toronto, Orlando, Portland, Salt Lake City, Columbus, San Jose, Vancouver and Montreal.
Seven of the top 12 MLS teams with the highest attendance numbers were in cities without an NFL franchise.
Twellman also believes it won’t be difficult for the passionate St. Louis Cardinals and Blues fans to jump on the bandwagon of another hometown team. Especially, he says, if the stadium is just a few blocks from home plate and center ice.
“I picture a Sunday afternoon baseball game, you stay downtown, then on Sunday night (MLS) is on ESPN for the Game of the Week,” Twellman says. “If you’re a baseball fan, you’re a Blues fan and you go to a soccer-specific stadium with 22,000 people in it and watching a good game, then you’ll become a fan real quick.”
Twellman was raised in St. Louis, playing his high school soccer at SLUH, and eventually playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team in World Cup Qualifiers, and other international tournaments like the Copa America and Gold Cup. Since retiring from professional soccer in 2010, he is now among the most prominent soccer commentators in the US. He has called World Cup games and has been featured on ESPN’s MLS Game of the Week since 2011.
Listen to the entire conversation Twellman had with KMOX’s Alex Ferrario Thursday night, here on our Sports Open Line podcast page.