This week marks the beginning of a new sporting era in Saint-Louis. Professional football is here.
On Wednesday, CITYPARK Stadium, home of future Major League Soccer team St. Louis, will host its first soccer game – an international friendly match between CITY SC 2 and Bayer 04 Leverkusen, a German team. This will be a preview of what professional football will look like at CITYPARK when it arrives in 2023.
Wednesday’s game is the culmination of years of waiting for St. Louis football fans. After the city secured an MLS team in 2019, developers opened the stadium in February 2020. CITYPARK, located in the Downtown West neighborhood, planned to host its first game in September 2022, but the opening was delayed after flooding and electrical problems. .
Delays, however, are a thing of the past. Now, on to football.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of Wednesday’s game:
Who is in competition?
Saint-Louis CITY SC 2 is the reserve team of CITY SC, the city’s future MLS team. They compete in the MLS NEXT Pro league. In its first year, CITY 2 finished with a 15-6-3 record and reached the league championship, where it fell to Columbus Crew 2.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen participates in the Bundesliga, the German first division. They are currently ranked as the 12th-best team out of 18 with a 5-3-7 record – a significant drop after finishing in third place last season. Named after the German pharmaceutical company, Bayer Leverkusen was founded in 1904 (hence its name), and it was the 2002 runners-up in the UEFA Champions League, formerly known as the European Cup. The team also holds the probably frustrating distinction of finishing second in the Bundesliga five times without ever winning that top spot.
People to watch
Forward Josh Dollinga former Missouri State star, led CITY2 with eight goals and defenseman Kyle Hiebert was one of three defenders honored for the MLS NEXT Pro Best XI, the league’s list of awards. Also keep an eye on the goalkeeper Roman Burkiwho has already signed a contract with CITY SC for 2023, plays for the Swiss national team and has previously played for legendary German team Borussia Dortmund.
Leverkusen are led by the French winger Moussa Diabywho leads the team in goal, and the Czech striker Patrick Schickwho won the silver boot of the 2020 European Championship. The head coach of the team is Xabi Alonsoa former professional footballer who played for Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the Spanish national team.
What time does the game start?
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Play starts at 7 p.m.
Where can I tailgate?
Schlafly-Restaurant (2100 Locust St., 314-241-2337) will hold a tailgate near the stadium. Organized by the St. Louligans fan club, the pre-match begins at 4 p.m., followed by a walk to the stadium at 6 p.m.
What will the stadium look like?
The stadium is advertised as a state-of-the-art football facility, designed to be loud and modern and very St. Louis. It hosts 22,500 fans – the seventh largest in American football. Every person in the stadium sits 120 feet from the field – the closest of any MLS team.
The Fan section will be the rowdiest part of it all. There are no seats. Fans must remain standing. This is the steepest section in MLS. There is a metal canopy above. There is a place to beat drums. All in the name of creating pure chaos and intense sound.
The stadium also features 100% local food (more below), music by St. Louis native Mvstermind, and a sculpture called “Pillars of the Valley” by Damon Davis dedicated to Mill Creek Valley.
What type of food will the stadium offer?
The stadium will feature St. Louis staples such as Steve’s Hot Dogs, Crown Candy, Dewey’s Pizza and Kaldi’s Coffee. The 24 offers will be scattered throughout the stadium in 52 different locations. The number is expected to climb when the MLS season begins in 2023. It is the only MLS stadium to have 100% local food vendors.
The entire dining experience is also completely cashless. Fans can order through the CITY GO app and pre-order food for halftime.
How much do the tickets cost?
Can I watch the game on TV?
Those not attending the game can watch on ESPN+ or on Facebook via Lider Sports Media. Fans can also tune in on KMOX (11:20 a.m.) or enjoy the game from the 100,000 square foot plaza outside the stadium, which will feature viewing opportunities and food trucks.
What are people saying about the first game?
Simon Rolfesgeneral manager of Leverkusen, on the inaugural match at the CITYPARK stadium in St. Louis Post-Dispatch : “It is unknown in Europe. It’s not normal for you to have a new club. Normally they’re 50, 60, whatever, and it’s pretty amazing how you start from scratch, you build the new facilities, the new stadium, the new team, the whole new generation, and it’s very interesting to see that and see the pros and cons. …Normally you have a base and then you change the pieces of the puzzle, but creating a whole new puzzle is not so easy.
—Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) November 14, 2022
Gerard CraftsCITY SC Flavor Officer, on food at RFT “St. Louis is made up of so many different cultures, and we really wanted to show that. We love grilled ravioli and everything, but we know that St. Louis is so much more than that. … We really wanted to have as much representation as possible.
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04fussball) November 14, 2022