ST. LOUIS – The hype comes down to Saturday’s first-ever meeting between new MLS state rivals St. Louis City SC and Sporting Kansas City.
Whether it’s barbecue wars or the battles between the Royals and the Cardinals, Kansas City and St. Louis have always had some sort of friendly (or aggressive) beef.
The rivalry between the pro soccer teams has already begun for the two sides.
Sporting KC and Kansas City as a whole use the moniker “Soccer Capital of America” while St. Louis uses “America’s First Soccer Capital.” This alone has already created a clash between fans.
The players and coaches involved have yet to feel it, but they are definitely ready to get a rivalry going.
“The game’s different. There’s more contest, more fighting, trash talk. Of course it’s different. I love those games,” said CITY SC midfielder Celio Pompeu.
“Definitely, deep down in our hearts, we know what this means,” said CITY SC head coach Bradley Carnell.
“I think it’s gonna be awesome,” SKC forward Dániel Sallói said. “I think we’ve all met people from St. Louis, and we all know the differences they have, you know, Kansas City people and St. Louis people.”
“The best example would be I have friends who I’ve known since high school in Kansas City, and they are from St. Louis,” Sallói continued. “And when the team was joining here in St. Louis, they straight up told me they’re gonna support St. Louis not me when we play them. So I think that’s a perfect example of how people just support their own city and they go for it really, really hard.”
That said, the new rivalry goes well beyond the pitch. some CITY SC and Sporting KC stars made playlists ahead of the first head-to-head match and the choices are quite different. Also, one St. Louis soccer podcast group slightly changed its name after some backlash from Kansas City fans.
While this is CITY SC’s inaugural season, St. Louis has a long resume that has led some to dub the city as the first soccer capital of America.
Six players on Team USA’s 1950 World Cup roster were from St. Louis. The city had multiple pro soccer leagues from as far back as the late-1800s to the mid-1900s. The St. Louis Stars played 10 seasons in the old NASL before they moved to Anaheim to become the shortlived California Surf in 1978.
Not to mention a number of professional soccer players have come out of the area like U.S. Soccer alums Taylor Twellman, Becky Sauerbrunn and Al Trost, the uncle of St. Louis native/KC-based soccer broadcaster Aly Trost Martin.
In their inaugural season, St. Louis CITY SC started out blazing to a 5-0 start before slowing down to a modest 6-4-1 record, which has them sitting fourth in the Western Conference. CITY SC aims to regain some momentum amid its recent sputter.
“We talk about success in times when the on-field success of our team might not be as rosy as the last two weeks,” said Carnell. “Looking at success levels of guys making debuts, bouncing back-to-back-to-back games. These are moments where we just really sit back and see what’s going on.”
CITY SC also kicked off a new rivalry with Chicago Fire FC earlier this month with two matches, one in the U.S. Open Cup and one for regular season. Both were held in the Chicagoland, and CITY SC mustered only one goal between both games.
Sporting KC looks forward to the new rivalry and the new challenge.
“I guess you have to say that they put a good roster together,” SKC manager Peter Vermes said. “I think it always helps when you come out of the gates with a win. As soon as you do that, I think you gain a lot of confidence.”
“I think they work really hard on the field, on both sides of the ball and, they take advantage of the situations that have occurred in their games,” he continued. “They’ve, they scored when they needed to and capitalized on mistakes of other teams.”
For Sporting, they are slowly altering course from one of the worst starts in league history. After a 1-1 draw with LAFC on Wednesday, rest and working recently injured players back into the lineup is a priority even in a rivalry.
“They’ll be well rested and we’ll have to come off of, a midweek game,” Vermes said.
“We have a bunch of other guys that will have to mix and match probably for the game, just to make sure that we keep some freshness and some people that have, if not a full gas tank, at least three quarters.”
SKC will be without goalkeeper Tim Melia for the second-straight game, but defender Tim Leibold is off of the injury report completely. St. Louis expects to get their star striker João Klauss back from injury as well.
The rivalry gets a nice 8:30 p.m. start time on Saturday night with a national audience on Fox Sports 1. This is the first of three regular-season matchups involving St. Louis CITY SC and Sporting KC this year.