St Louis, the beautiful game, was it the holy grail of US soccer

St Louis is by many seen as the holy grail of US Soccer, with notes of a game taking place as early as 1882. The game was played between The Hurleys defeated The Hornets at Sportman’s Park. The game was played in front of 2000 spectators and under the “Associtation of Foot-Ball rules of Great Britain”.

St Louis founded their own professional soccer league in 1907. St. Leo’s was the top team who had a full professional squad with other teams fielding a mix of players getting paid and not.

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A number of different cups were established during the early days with American Cup being the first and most popular held for clubs in the eastern region of the USA. You also have the United States Soccer Federation founded in 1913, and of course different leagues established but with a bit of difficulty to understand the purpose as you seldom, or as of today, do not have relegations and promotions as seen in Europe.

For the clubs from St. Louis, they played in their own pro-league and then competed in the cup with other teams as Fuller FC, Stix and Bear were all succesfull reaching finals and winning the bowl in the 30’s. A mass of difficulties appeared and teams were dissolved and in a way Soccer as a pro-soccer more or less vanished in the years after the WW2.

Amateur club St. Louis Simpkins-Ford was successful and winning titles, with a number of players also participating in that most memorable event, that special 1-0 win v. England in the 1950 World Cup. Five players from The Simpkins did travel with the US team and were squad members. The club excisted from 1947 to 1956.

The next major chapter in the book of soccer in St. Louis is the establisment of The Stars, entering the NASL in 1968, playing in the NPSL for the 1967 season, their excistance were until 1977 when the franchise moved to Annaheim California and became The Surf, which excisted a few more years until 1981.

St. Louis Stars did start their NASL adventure with German Rudi Gutendorf as coach, he moved on after that first season with a lot of players from abroad also departing, with the 1969 team basically build up with US based players and a few key imports among them.

Former Crystal Palace defender John Sewell joined in 1972 after a long and great career at Selhurst Park being pivotal in that very first promotion to the top flight for The Eagles. He also had spells with Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient before his move over the pond. Later Sewell took over as head coach and ran the team also when the establishment moved to California.

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John Sewell was one of the appearing players in the 1972 Soccer Bowl final where The Stars had to see defeat against New York Cosmos. The game ended in 2-1 win to Cosmos, with Sewell playing forward the Polish striker Kazimierz Frankiewicz who at that time was also the teams manager. Another Englishman in that St. Louis team was Wilf Tranter, a defender previously with Man Utd, Brighton and Fulham.

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The team remained and continued with the majority of players being from the US, but a few new faces appeared from abroad with Roger Verdi among those. Born in Kenya with a youth career at English clubs Ipswich Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers he jumped at the chance to be part of US Soccer and mainly played here in his career representing St. Louis Stars from 1975 to 1977.

The Stars did in their last two seasons bring in a few known names from English football with Keith Fear, John Hawley and Peter Bonetti being on the roster, also in their names such as Fred Binney, Dennis Burnett and John Jackson.

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After the move of The Stars to become California based The Surf, new clubs appeared in St Louis and in indoor soccer being popular with Steamers and Storm playing in the MISL going into the start of this century. The establishment of the MLS never did see any teams from this city but in 2019 St. Louis City SC was founded with an aim to play in the league from 2022.

During all these years you have seen the college and university soccer society growth as this game is highly recognized and many players in the MLS earlier in the NASL did have their graduation from one of the soccer camps of this city.

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