Saint Louis City: Redefining Soccer


Tyler Witkowski '24

Saint Louis City SC is a new Major League Soccer (MLS) team that started off their regular season this year. Owned by Carolyn Kindle Betz and Jim Kavanaugh, the team represents a new era of professional soccer in St. Louis, Missouri. Throughout this article, I will talk about the club and how it differs from other clubs in the MLS so far.


To start, soccer has a long and established history in Greater St. Louis, dating back over a century. However, St. Louis had failed in previous attempts to bring an MLS expansion team to the city. For example, in 2007, St. Louis was considered as a possible destination for Real Salt Lake after the club founder announced he would sell the club if a new stadium was not built. From 2008 to 2009, St. Louis lawyer Jeff Cooper led a group of would-be owners who attempted to bring an MLS expansion team to Greater St. Louis, only to have the bids turned down in favor of other cities. Despite approved plans to build the $600 million Collinsville Soccer Complex, the MLS was unimpressed with the bid’s financial backing and suggested Cooper expand his group of investors. Cooper instead launched a second division men’s club and a Women’s Professional Soccer franchise. AC St. Louis (the men’s team) played only one season in Division 2 before folding in 2011; the Saint Louis Athletica (the women’s team) folded midway through its second season in 2010. In late 2014, St. Louis announced plans for a new stadium to host both American football and soccer. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in January 2015, “St. Louis has got a lot of activity going on with a stadium that they’re trying to get done for the NFL’s Rams. There’s a big soccer community out there and we’d love to see a soccer stadium downtown like they’re thinking about a football stadium.” In May 2015, Garber visited St. Louis to talk about a possible new multi-purpose stadium that could host soccer games. Garber cautioned that any possible expansion to St. Louis would occur after 2020. On January 12, 2016, the Rams moved to Los Angeles after playing in St. Louis for 21 seasons, accelerating the talks of an MLS expansion team. 


How does this club differ from others in the MLS? There are a few major points outside of City SC’s  playstyle that we can get out of the way quickly. The ownership group for City SC is led by Carolyn Kindle Betz, making her the first female majority owner in MLS history. The group also includes several other prominent St. Louis business leaders, as well as members of the Taylor family, who previously owned the St. Louis Blues NHL team. This ownership group is unique compared to other MLS clubs, which are typically owned by extremely wealthy individuals or groups with backgrounds in sports ownership or management. City SC also takes much pride in its stadium, the $458-milion building has a seating capacity of 22,500 people. The stadium is also one of the most environmentally sustainable stadiums in the world! The stadium’s architecture blends in with the neighborhood while also connecting it to the city area, providing a fan-friendly experience, modern amenities, and excellent sightlines. The final thing (outside of the game) that the management takes much pride in is City SC’s branding and messaging. They focus on reminding the city about how the club connects to St. Louis and its history. The Missouri River and Mississippi River meet at the confluence shown by the two lines on the crest, which also includes the recognizable Gateway Arch. City red, river blue, energy yellow, and arch steel gray are the team’s official colors. Magenta is a hue of red that is used as the club’s primary color. As for their style of play, St. Louis City SC has taken the MLS by storm by becoming the first expansion team in history to win their first four games of the season. What sets them apart from other teams is their ability to adapt to different formations and playing styles, making them an unpredictable and difficult team to play against. On the attack, City SC utilizes a high-pressing style of play, forcing opponents to make mistakes, thus creating chances. Their preferred formation is a 4-4-2 or 5-3-2, where they keep three defenders back and send everyone else forward. This allows them to create a lot of attacking options while still maintaining a solid defensive line. In their 4-4-2 formation, one of their outside backs will tuck in like a third center back, while in their 5-3-2 formation, they use their #6 as a third defender and send both outside players forward. The way that City SC creates chances is very impressive, as they do not rely on any noticeable pattern of play. Instead, they simply pass to the open player, probing the opponent for an opening, and once they find it, they look to hit a single target quickly. Specifically, João Klauss, who is gifted at combining, can use a delicate flick to get the ball to an open teammate. Defensively, St. Louis City SC is equally impressive, using their high-pressing style of play to force turnovers and create opportunities for counterattacks. They mark very aggressively and players ahead of the ball collapse around the ball as a recovery run. This style of play requires exceptional fitness levels, which they possess, allowing them to maintain their high-pressing style for the entire game. Another one of their many major strengths is the club’s ability to play out of different formations, making it very difficult for opponents to predict where the space will be on the field. They also have fantastic fitness levels that allow them to press all over the field for the entire match. As mentioned earlier, João Klauss has fantastic foot skills and vision and can use his incredible one-touch play to be effective at freeing up space for his teammates. Their outside attackers are very fluid and can play from outside or centrally, making them unpredictable in their attack. Finally, there is City SC’s resilience and determination to keep playing until the final whistle. This is especially noticeable when they get tackled. While some players will start rolling around on the ground to get a call, the City SC players just get right back up.


In conclusion, St. Louis City SC has brought a new era of professional soccer to St. Louis, Missouri. The team’s ownership group is unique compared to other MLS clubs and takes pride in the stadium’s sustainability and fan-friendly experience. City SC has already made history as the first expansion team to win their first four games of the season, thanks to their ability to adapt to different formations and playing styles. Their high-pressing style of play, both on the attack and defense, makes them unpredictable and difficult to play against. With their impressive performance so far, St. Louis City SC has proven that they are here to redefine soccer in America’s Soccer Capital.