Saint Louis FC Will Play In Western Conference In 2018 For Some Unknown Reason
The United Soccer League released some news this morning and it doesn’t make much sense to fans of local club Saint Louis FC.
In fact diehard fans of the club are pissed, including this writer. And we have every right to be.
STLFC will play the 2018 USL season, its fourth, as a member of the league’s Western Conference. The announcement keeps the club’s streak of playing in a different conference each season alive.
With the news that Indy Eleven is leaving the North American Soccer League (NASL) and joining the USL this season, the USL will have 33 teams in 2018. The 2018 conference alignment news released today has 17 teams in the West and 16 in the Eastern Conference.
Here’s the full list for the USL West and USL East for 2018.
|Western Conference||Eastern Conference|
|Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC||ATL UTD 2|
|Fresno FC||Bethlehem Steel FC|
|LA Galaxy II||Charleston Battery|
|Las Vegas Lights FC||Charlotte Independence|
|OKC Energy FC||FC Cincinnati|
|Orange County SC||Indy Eleven|
|Phoenix Rising FC||Louisville City FC|
|Portland Timbers 2||Nashville SC|
|Real Monarchs SLC||New York Red Bulls II|
|Reno 1868 FC||North Carolina FC|
|Rio Grande Valley FC||Ottawa Fury FC|
|Sacramento Republic FC||Penn FC|
|Saint Louis FC||Pittsburgh Riverhounds|
|San Antonio FC||Richmond Kickers|
|Seattle Sounders FC 2||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|Swope Park Rangers||Toronto FC II|
|Tulsa Roughnecks FC|
In terms of time zones, the conference breaks down as follows:
(6) Six Central Time Zone
(3) Mountain Time Zone
(8) Pacific Time Zone
Goodbye Bus Trips
Among those fans hopping mad about the move to the West are members of the St. Louligans supporters group. One member of the group has a strongly-worded piece on the group’s website today, It’s almost as if St. Louis fans kind of knew the league would do this to us?
As Mitch writes, “our road trip options have been destroyed.” In past seasons the group has filled multiple buses for trips to Louisville, Kentucky to watch the team play.
With the 2018 alignment, Saint Louis FC will have one conference foe that will realistically allow for fans to drive there and back in a single day, the Swope Park Rangers.
The next nearest club is Tulsa, which is roughly six hours from St. Louis.
An ideal world, or at least one better for the Chupacabra faithful, could easily exist in 2018. The club could play regular season games in Indianapolis and Louisville – both roughly four hours away – as well as Nashville and Cincinnati, which are roughly five-hour drives.
The USL previously announced that teams will each play 34 games in 2018. Playing a home-home series with each of the other teams in the West will take 32 games, leaving a possible two regular season games to play against the four teams mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Figuring one of those games will be at Soccer Park, that would leave just one match for a possible road trip.
Something as simple as putting STLFC in the East instead of the West, the conferences will be uneven anyway, would have made much more sense.
Why Wait Until 2019 For A Central Conference?
USL Commissioner Jake Edwards confirmed back in July that the league will feature a Central Conference in either 2018 or 2019. That begs the question, why didn’t they do it for this season?
While 33 teams don’t fit evenly into two conference, they do into three.
An eleven-team Central could include STLFC and Swope Park as well as clubs in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, Atlanta, Louisville, Edinburg (TX) and San Antonio.
This proposed conference would significantly reduce travel costs for just about every club.
Instead of 2,000-mile trips to Portland and California, the longest road trip would be the 1,100 miles to play Rio Grande Valley FC.
As it is now, the club might as well rent a few houses out in Central Nevada for the season and run things from there. Play a few away games in a row at a time and you would probably save enough on travel costs.
USL clubs aren’t run by billionaires. The more money Saint Louis FC spends on travel, the less money the club has for things like player salaries and the fan experience.
Then again, do Jake Edwards and the USL really care about the fan experience?
Late Start Times Are Back For St. Louis Fans
The USL made a big deal of record attendance numbers last season like the league passing the two million mark for the season. The news today makes fans in St. Louis question if the league really cares about its fans.
Placing STLFC out west essentially makes it impossible for local fans to go see their club on the road. Despite what those against public funding for stadiums will say, people do travel for sports. That includes fans of other clubs.
Just like STLFC fans won’t fill stands in cities like Sacramento for matches, Sacramento fans won’t be flocking to Fenton either. Depriving fans of opportunities to connect with its product doesn’t seem like a great strategy for a sports league.
Just sit on your couch and stream the away matches you say? You are going to have to sacrifice some sleep.
Say STLFC plays LA Galaxy II next season on the road in a mid-week match. The match starts at 7:30 pm Pacific. That means a 9:30 pm start time in St. Louis.
The club’s school-age fans aren’t going to stay up to watch that. The St. Louligans have hosted popular watch parties at International Tap House in Soulard for away matches in past seasons. Good luck getting fans who have to work in the morning out for those.
Even Saturday night matches pose a problem. What if you have church or other obligations on Sunday morning? Staying up watching soccer until midnight might make for a rough 9 am mass.
Despite the obstacles thrown at Saint Louis FC — from conference changes to stadium floods to fickle fans in the region — the club will begin its fourth season of professional soccer in St. Louis in 2018.
The USL and Jake Edwards can kiss my. . . Arch.
(See what I did there?)
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