Sam Masterson (@sammasterson22)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team Bruce Arena made an extra stop while visiting the historically great soccer city, to have a beer and talk soccer with some of St. Louis’ most passionate soccer fans.

Arena was in town to meet with one of U.S. Soccer’s sponsors, Cutter Insect Repellent, whose headquarters are in St. Louis. But he also participated in a Q-and-A at the popular soccer bar in Tower Grove South, Amsterdam Tavern.

Growing up in New York, he says soccer in St. Louis was the ‘hotbed of soccer in the country’ at that time. And if it wasn’t for the talented players and teams who called St. Louis home, U.S. Soccer wouldn’t be where it is today.

“Cities around the country tried to mimic St. Louis,” Arena says. “And many years later now we have 100 St. Louis’s or more in the United States. So I think St. Louis soccer gave everyone else in the country the impetus to try and match them and be good at the sport.”

Arena is preparing his team for two of its final six World Cup 2020 Qatar qualifying matches over the next month. The U.S. plays Honduras and Panama on March 24 and 28 respectively.

The St. Louis fans on hand at Amsterdam weren’t throwing the coach any softballs to answer. He was asked about inclusions and exclusions of St. Louisans like Tim Ream on future World Cup squads, and other players like aging forward Clint Dempsey and future star Christian Pulisic.  Fans even dug into more complicated topics such as Arena’s plans to grow U.S. Soccer’s talent pool and the future of youth clubs possibly paying homegrown players to protect them from being poached to represent other countries.

That entire conversation was recorded by KMOX Sports on Facebook and can be seen here:

USMNT sits last in it’s group of six, after loses to both Mexico and Costa Rico, which led to the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann, and hiring of Arena last November.

US has eight games left to play, and needs to finish in the top three in the group to secure a place at the 2020 World Cup in Qatar. The fourth place finisher from CONCACAF will have a play-in game against the fifth place team from Asia’s group.

Arena is also one of the most dominant coaches in recent MLS history, winning five league championships in 12 seasons split between the Los Angeles Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and D.C. United. He was asked about his views on MLS’s expansion plans with 12 cities submitting bids for a limited number of spot in the league.

“Hopefully St. Louis’s time will come,” Arena says. “St. Louis is going to get really strong considerations.”

A public funding plan for the proposed stadium was approved to go on the April ballot. Without the promise of that stadium, St. Louis’s chances for an MLS franchise will be greatly hindered.

Also in attendance were SC STL’s executive committee member, Dave Peacock and vice chairman, Jim Kavanaugh. They are members of the potential MLS ownership group, if St. Louis is awarded a franchise. KMOX Sports’ Tom Ackerman had a one-on-one conversation with Peacock, and you can watch that interview here.

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