The U.S. MNT returns to one of the country’s soccer hot beds when it opens 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying against either St. Vincent and the Grenadines or Aruba on Nov. 13 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
The match marks the MNT’s first game in the United States’ historic soccer capital in nearly 20 years, with the side last paying to a 0-0 draw against Paraguay at Busch Conference & Sports Center (now St. Louis Soccer Park) on June 4, 1997.
What made St. Louis such a bastion for soccer in the United States?
Clubs from the city made an early mark on the U.S. Open Cup (then known as the National Challenge Cup), with Ben Millers first lifting the Dewar Trophy in 1920. Scullin Steel followed up two years later before Stix, Baer and Fuller (later known as St. Louis Central Breweries) went to four straight finals from 1932-1935, winning all but the first.
Much of St. Louis’ continuing soccer strength came from the city’s representation on the U.S. team that went to the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Five of the 11 players that appeared in the USA’s historic 1-0 victory against England hailed from St. Louis: goalkeeper Frank Borghi, defenders Charlie Colombo and Harry Keough and midfielders Gino Pariani and Frank Wallace.
In 1948, Borghi, Colombo and Pariani all won National Challenge Cup titles with Simpkins Ford, while Wallace joined them to win the title in 1950. Keough would taste domestic cup glory of his own, winning with St. Louis Kutis in 1957.
Upon retirement as a player, Keough wrote another chapter in the city’s soccer history when he became the head coach of St. Louis University. With five NCAA tournament championships already in the trophy case, Keough guided the Billikens to another championship in his first season in 1967. He’d go on to lead the school to four more tournament titles in five years from 1969-1973.
One of the top players in U.S. MNT history, Brian McBride attended the school from 1990-1993, before going on to play in three World Cups and build a famous club career, most notably with Fulham FC in the English Premier League. Other World Cup participants that hail from St. Louis include Mike Sorber (1994) and Brad Davis (2014).
Current U.S. MNT defender Tim Ream, as well as former U.S. internationals Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston, Chris Klein and Pat Noonan also earned their soccer stripes coming up in the Gateway to the West.
Though it’s been a while since the MNT’s last appearance in St. Louis, the team has been successful in the Mound City, going 5-1-2 all-time with the only defeat being a World Cup qualifying loss to Canada on July 6, 1957. Six of the eight matches played in St. Louis have been World Cup qualifiers, with the MNT earning two wins (against Jamaica and Costa Rica) and a draw (against El Salvador) in the team’s successful campaign to qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.