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Hype grows as Sporting KC, St. Louis City SC prepare for inaugural MLS clash

Clubs trade barbs over cities’ soccer history ahead of rivalry’s debut
Skc vs STL City.png
Posted at 12:34 PM, May 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-19 21:47:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Soccer Capital of America travels to America’s First Soccer City on Saturday for the first MLS showdown between teams from Kansas City and St. Louis.

There’s yet to be a single kick of the ball between Sporting Kansas City and St. Louis City SC, but the war of words — from the teams and fans — already has given the presumptive rivalry some bite, as SKC Manager and Technical Director Peter Vermes might say.

That includes legal wrangling over Sporting KC forcing a St. Louis City fan podcast to cease and desist use of the name “Soccer Capitol” podcast, because it infringed on the club’s “Soccer Capital of America” trademark.

Sporting KC began using the phrase in marketing around the rebrand 12 years ago and formally applied for a trademark in October 2016, long before the new MLS franchise was a twinkle in The Lou’s eye.

That original trademark was abandoned in December 2020, but Sporting KC renewed the trademark in July 2021, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records.

St. Louis City trademarked the phrase “America’s First Soccer City” on March 23, 2023.

Sporting KC, originally called the Kansas City Wiz and then Wizards, is one of eight original MLS franchises that have operated every season since the league’s founding in 1996.

St. Louis City kicked off its inaugural MLS season in March, becoming the first expansion team in league history to win its first five games.

Both teams posted hype videos in recent days, with Sporting KC highlighting that it doesn’t need “to read about our history” and touting the transformative nature of its 2011 rebrand, which “redefined expectations” and “set new standards.”

Sporting KC’s video noted that “some places live in the distant past, celebrating long-forgotten history” while showing a billboard St. Louis City erected along Interstate 70 that highlights the Gateway to the West’s soccer tradition dating back to 1907.

“Kansas City didn’t settle for being a gateway; we became a global destination,” the video says as a banner and the crowd at Power & Light erupts drops during the announcement of Kansas City as a host for the 2026 World Cup last June. “So, hello, neighbor. Welcome to the league. What took so long? Greetings and salutations from the one, the only, the true Soccer Capital of America. We’ll see you soon.”

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St. Louis City’s retort claims that “soccer has always been woven into the fabric” of St. Louis.

“This is America’s first soccer city, and we will defend it,” the video concludes.

Initially, Sporting KC dubbed the game the “Heartland Derby" on social media, but that moniker was noticeably absent in more-recent posts about the game.

Sporting KC at St. Louis City kicks off at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday from CityPark. The game airs for free on Apple TV’s MLS streaming service and FS1, a rare chance for non-subscribers to see the game.

Only three remaining Sporting KC games can be seen outside Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass, including May 28 vs. Portland on Fox and July 31 vs. Chivas in the Leagues Cup on UniMás and FS1.

Sporting KC and St. Louis City meet two more times during the 2023 season — Sept. 2 at Children’s Mercy Park and Sept. 30 back at CityPark.