FENTON, Mo. — Think St. Louis is ready for Major League Soccer? It'll have to prove it can heavily support its current minor league team first.
“They’re watching everything we do," said Patrick Barry, referring to the MLS brass in charge of rewarding a U.S. city its final expansion team.
Barry is president of the Saint Louis Football Club, the city's current United Soccer League (USL) team.
“For us to have a very engaged fan base is what MLS is looking for," he said.
MLS plans on announcing its last expansion spot later in 2019. Many believe the decision is only between two cities: Sacramento and St. Louis.
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Saint Louis FC sells out nearly every game already, averaging roughly 5,000 fans at Toyota Stadium in Fenton. They believe they'll need that continued success, and possibly additional fan support, this season in order to lock in an MLS team for St. Louis. It's a mission St. Louis FC is thrilled to be part of.
“Anything that has to do with improving the game in St. Louis, we’re supportive of," said Barry.
Barry hopes that all soccer fans choose to support his team, even if it's only part of the larger goal.
“Their way to support [MLS], and to make sure we get an MLS team, is to come here to show that attendance does increase and that the fans are responding to the effort," said Barry.
Sure, the team ownership and stadium for the proposed MLS team both matter, but so does the city's current fan engagement. Saint Louis FC's fans appear to be the perfect barometer.
“For us it’s really about how passionate they are — not necessarily the amount — but are they engaged? And will the community embrace a soccer team? And I think we’ve proven that," said Barry.