ST. LOUIS — Before the rivalry could begin on the soccer pitch, the war of words was well underway. Kansas City versus St. Louis.
It’s online. It’s on billboards. It’s even club against fan. Just ask the River City Ramble podcast... the artists formally known as the Soccer Capitol podcast.
Sporting KC didn’t like that original name.
“Eventually we get an email from someone identifying themselves as a vice president and legal counsel for Sporting Kansas City saying, ‘Hey we’d like to talk to you about the name of your podcast because there might be some infringement here,’" River City Ramble podcast host Sean Campbell said. “Then in March, we get another email saying 'you have 3 to 5 days to comply or we’re going to have to serve you with legal action.'
“We don’t make any money off this… we record this in our bedrooms and basements. And to have a multi-million dollar company to come after us for this… I don’t know," River City Ramble podcast host Chris Zimmermann said. “We kind of, in our free time google searched trademark law… just when we could. And that’s not good enough.”
The podcast decided to change their name to "River City Ramble" to avoid any legal action, but as a result of the kerfuffle they did get some new fans.
“We had doubled our followers on Twitter, our listeners doubled for that next episode…. It was insane to see the spike. We jumped up to I believe top 10 in soccer-specific podcasts on the Apple charts," Campbell said. "How many people can really say, ‘I was at the start of the rivalry and I really sparked it?’”
So Sporting KC took down a fan-run podcast in St. Louis. A cheap shot. But what about that whole 'soccer capital' claim? You know we had to ask Mr. St. Louis soccer himself for some perspective.
“St. Louis has always had that little bit of an edge soccer-wise over Kansas City. I’m not degrading Kansas City’s status in major league soccer. They have a magnificent venue… however that venue is in Kansas," St. Louis soccer legend Bill McDermott said. “For years, Kansas City was ahead of St. Louis because they had an MLS venue. You have to be Major League Soccer. You have to be in MLS to be considered a serious contender for soccer capital of the United States."
St. Louis has an MLS team now. And the history to back up the claim of being America's first soccer city.
“The pedigree and legacy of St. Louis soccer and the Open Cup wins and so many different things… the birth of the CYC… international teams coming into St. Louis to play on a regular basis… June 29, 1950, the World Cup in Brazil, the United States beats England, the inventors of the sport with five St. Louisans in the first 11," McDermott said.
And while the online trash talk and clever billboards welcoming Kansas City fans to town is fun, the teams are ready to start this rivalry on the field.
“We touched on the vibe around the whole city. And how St. Louis people believe that… I would say they’re better than Kansas City people," CITY SC defender Tim Parker said with a wry smile. "I like to buy into some of it. But at some point you have to create that rivalry on the field as well.”
That creation may start on Saturday… but the soccer roots are firmly planted in St. Louis. No matter what the folks out west may say.
“It goes deeper than every other city in the states. That’s what I’ve learned. And that’s facts," CITY SC head coach Bradley Carnelly said about soccer history in St. Louis. “We know what it means to St. Louis and we want to repay that.”