Saint Louis: Gateway to the World Cup

Allie Ryan, Editor

When the United States men’s soccer team was last here for World Cup qualification, St. Louis was a popular hub for soccer in America. Two of the teams in the final round of qualifying for Italy 1990 had five home matches held at the Soccer Park in Fenton, Missouri, as well as a match in an earlier round of qualifying. In their most recent qualifier in St. Louis, the United States tied El Salvador 0-0 on November 5, 1989. However, tying put U.S. hopes of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup in danger. The team had to win on the road two weeks later in Trinidad and Tobago to secure the spot.

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It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve been able to witness. It might even be the most amazing thing. It was extra special for me since it was my actual birthday. Definitely one I’ll never forget.”

— Malia Dunbar

Since then, times have changed. St. Louis was one of the few places the national team could count on for drawing energetic crowds. But as the hosts, the team didn’t have to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, and by the 1998 tournament and the birth of Major League Soccer, other cities became attractive destinations. Meanwhile, the team had outgrown Soccer Park, which back then seated about 8,500 fans.

When the news broke that the U.S. would kick off their road to the World Cup in St.Louis, against St. Vincent & The Grenadines, soccer fans received a Christmas miracle a little early.

The game took place on Friday, November 13th,2015 at Busch Stadium with the largest crowd of any professional soccer game held in the Lou’ with a total of 43,433 fans. Andi Gebhart, a member of the American Outlaws, a U.S. soccer supporters group, thought that being a part of history by attending this game was “An amazing feeling. To help kick off qualifying was a huge honor!” It was also a very sentimental day for another Outlaws member, Malia Dunbar, who celebrated her birthday at the match. “It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve been able to witness. It might even be the most amazing thing. It was extra special for me since it was my actual birthday. Definitely one I’ll never forget.”

It truly was a time to celebrate in St.Louis thanks to Jozy Altidore who tallied a brace with a 6-1 victory. St. Vincent and the Grenadines struck first, with a goal from Oalex Anderson in the fifth minute. The U.S. equalized through Bobby Wood six minutes later before Fabian Johnson put the team in the lead in the 29th minute. Jozy Altidore tallied two, while Geoff Cameron and Gyasi Zardes completed the scoring in the 6-1 rout.

Darlington Nagbe and Matt Miazga made their senior U.S. Men’s National Team debuts, coming in for Fabian Johnson and Geoff Cameron in the 64th minute.

The U.S. Men’s National Team continued their quest against Trinidad & Tobago to face the Soca Warriors in Port of Spain on Tuesday, Nov. 17,2015,  where they finished with a 0-0 draw. Next up for the United States men is Guatemala, but they are not scheduled to play their next qualifying match until March 25, 2016.