St. Louis is divided over whether soccer can be a savior

Recovering from the slow-motion heartbreak of losing its NFL team (and, to a greater extent, watching the Rams grossly underperform for a decade), St. Louis is jostling with 11 other cities for a Major League Soccer expansion team. Building a stadium is critical to that effort, and an ownership group known as SC STL is trying to secure city taxpayer dollars for the facility.

But with St. Louis facing a raft of economic and public safety issues, opponents believe subsidizing professional sports is a misplaced priority. They also question whether a soccer team is going to provide much benefit to residents in struggling neighborhoods.


“It is difficult for me as an alderman from an area filled with poverty and disenfranchisement to become excited about projects that are really based upon the profit motivations of people with money,” said Alderman Terry Kennedy, who represents the 18th Ward, in north-central St. Louis.


The possible MLS team’s ownership group has been whipping up support for the stadium in various ways, including a rally scheduled for Monday night with the league’s commissioner and former national team player (and St. Louis native) Taylor Twellman.


The ownership group also could be found — along with a crowd of fans — on the Amsterdam Tavern’s outdoor patio on a February morning. It wasn’t for a beer special or Premier League game, but a question-and-answer session with U.S. Men’s National Team coach Bruce Arena.


There was more on the crowd’s mind than whether Clint Dempsey would return to the national team in time for the 2018 World Cup. Justin Hager was thinking about how to get his Lindenwood Park neighbors to vote in favor of the two ballot initiatives that would direct money toward the stadium.


“I think the future of soccer in St. Louis is…

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