St. Louis lands semi-pro soccer club to groom young players

ST. LOUIS - St. Louis may not have scored an MLS team, but it landed another pro soccer team. St. Louis Club Atletico announced it has joined the National Premier Soccer League as an expansion team.

The point of this semi-pro league is to allow young players the opportunity to hone their skills and help them advance to the major leagues.

The new team chose the Missouri History Museum to make the announcement, symbolize soccer's history in St. Louis.

Like any parent, Guadalupe De La Cruz has many dreams and hopes for her young boys. One of those is to cheer them on from the sidelines.

"We love sports but soccer is our thing," she said.

De La Cruz said supporting her kids' dreams to one day play professionally has been costly; that's until St. Louis Club Atletico came along.

"Given that both of my kids had a developmental delay, soccer gave them a chance to feel that pride," she said.

The brand new semi-pro franchise just scored a spot with the National Premier Soccer League. The hometown team will provide more opportunities for local soccer players to help them develop their skills with the purpose of turning professional.

"These kids are starting out of high school and college and after, and have a product to get into professional scouts and teams can see our local guys shine," said Ricardo Garza, St. Louis Club Atletico co-owner.

That's why De La Cruz's children are starting early as part of the franchise's youth clinics, where they get to practice.

"Playing a sport should not be inaccessible, it should be free," she said. "It gives them a chance to know that they can dream and make it."

The team, which will call St. Mary's Stadium in south St. Louis its home, plans to scout young talented athletes from all over St. Louis, including the Lou Fusz Soccer Club.

"I think this league is going to be a really wonderful thing in the St. Louis area and our kids," said Todd Phillips, technical director of Lou Fouz Soccer Club. "Some of those players who might now think about soccer in college or may not be thinking about playing soccer in the MLS, they will have an opportunity to play here locally that might open up doors for them later in the future."

The team will be holding tryouts on March 3 and March 4 in Eureka.