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St. Louis may get men's soccer

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – Fans of men's professional soccer in St. Louis may have a team to call their own come April.

The team would be part of a new soccer league being formed by existing franchises in Atlanta, North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, and two in Canada. The teams are currently part of a Division II league called United Soccer League I, but many are dissatisfied with the way the USL operates.

Jeff Cooper, the chairman of St. Louis Soccer United, would own the new men's team. Although Division II is considered lower than Major League Soccer, the quality of play is often indistinguishable, he said.

"If you look at the US Open Cup, which is a tournament held with every team in the United States, Major League Soccer and USL teams, USL teams have always done very, very well in that," Cooper said.

Cooper's ultimate goal is an MLS franchise in the St. Louis area. The new Division II team helps that goal along, he said.

"Whether it's Seattle, or Vancouver, or Portland, they've played there, they've shown they have a history of supporting professional soccer in that city," he said.

The new league, including the yet-unnamed St. Louis team, will start play in April 2010. A mad scramble for coaches and players is underway, Cooper said, but St. Louis's experience with the Athletica, the woman's professional team he also owns, will make other aspects of getting ready easier.

"Luckily, with having Athletica this past year, we got the entire 'back office' with ticket sales and sponsorship and those type of things already set up and ready to go," he said.

The new team will play at the Anheuser-Busch Soccer Park in Fenton.