ST. LOUIS – Thousands of fans braved freezing temperatures to witness history Wednesday night; the first professional soccer game at CITYPARK in Downtown St. Louis.
St. Louis CITY2 hosted Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen for the opening home match at CITYPARK, a 3-0 loss on the scoreboard, but a sweet victory years-in-the-making for the St. Louis region.
Goals and cheers will fill the stadium for years to come, but the host team Wednesday isn’t primarily the one you should expect at CITYPARK next year. The venue will officially be home to Major League Soccer team St. Louis CITY SC when its inaugural seaosn kicks off in February.
It should be worth noting that, while St. Louis CITY SC and St. Louis CITY2 work in tandem with each other, both are completely different teams part of two distinct soccer leagues. The relationship is kind of similar to one between the St. Louis Cardinals and AAA-affiliate Memphis Redbirds or the St. Louis Blues to the AHL-affiliate Springfield Thunderbirds.
St. Louis CITY SC
Major League Soccer officially granted an expansion team to St. Louis in 2019, and it wasn’t until more than a year later that the franchise announced “St. Louis CITY SC” as its official name.
According to an Aug. 2020 announcement from the team, the name represents the heritage of the St. Louis region, celebrates the city of St. Louis’ diverse neighborhoods and depicts the region’s growth and cultural renaissance.
The name is also intended to represent the St. Louis region’s rich history of soccer. Some of the earliest origins of the game date back to the late 19th century and leading some enthusiasts to dub it as “The First Soccer Capital of America,” according to a report from the Marquette Messenger.
St. Louis CITY SC’s logo specifically has a crest with the Gateway Arch and two lines that symbolize the region’s two rivers (the Mississippi River and Missouri River). Franchise officials officially released the team’s inaugural home jersey on Wednesday, which is primarily “city red” with “river blue,” “energy yellow” and ‘arch steel gray” striping.
St. Louis CITY SC will make its MLS debut in 2023 and call CITYPARK its home stadium.
St. Louis CITY2
Officially founded in Dec. 2021, St. Louis CITY2 joined the MLS Next Pro league as the developmental wing of St. Louis CITY SC.
The MLS Next Pro League is one that rosters reserve athletes for MLS franchises and aims to offer an “integrated player pathway,” especially for younger soccer players. The league officially launched in spring 2022, and St. Louis CITY2 found instant success. The team finished with 15 wins, 6 losses and 3 draws, earning a spot in the MLS Next Pro Cup Final in October before an eventual series loss to Columbus Crew 2.
To build a roster, St. Louis CITY2 offered an academy ahead of the inaugural season. The team promoted six academy athletes to the development squad and brought on 19 others from various high schools, colleges, and professional teams. When St. Louis CITY SC kicks off its inaugural season next year, it can choose to recall certain players from St. Louis CITY2 as needed in response to certain injuries and emergencies.
Though there isn’t much of an explanation behind CITY2’s team name, it’s worth noting that most of the Next Pro League teams are distinguished with the number or Roman numerals for “two” after their specific MLS partner’s team name.
Unlike St. Louis CITY SC, the logo for CITY2 specifically has a crest with the number 2 (and nothing else) inside a blue background. The team donned white uniforms for home games and gray uniforms for road games during the 2022 season.
St. Louis CITY SC made its MLS Next Pro debut in 2022 and plays home games at two college stadiums; St. Louis University’s Hermann Stadium and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Ralph Korte Stadium.