Communication is key to healthy relationships, Athletica.

The co-writer and I tuned into the WPS chat on Twitter last night, interrupting the blog entry I was writing about Saint Louis’ financial woes. The interruption was probably a good thing; the entry was getting long and I was getting irritable, as I do when it comes to StL.

When the league launched, and even through half of the first season, I thought Saint Louis was “my” team. It was certainly my local team, it had a roster that I liked, and it didn’t start off anywhere near the top of the standings. Unfortunately, those factors aren’t enough for me. As a student of writing and rhetoric, I prioritize communication. As a fan of women’s soccer, I expect this communication to take place at least in part online. As a follower of the WPS, I trust that my team will participate in social media.

Saint Louis lost me as a fan long before the team started its climb in the standings. Even as a local fan, one with internet savvy and plenty of interest in connecting with this team, I had a tough time staying current on a team that was playing in my own backyard. Saint Louis wasn’t on the same page–in more ways than one–as the rest of the WPS when it came to connecting with the fans, both online and off. The team was frustratingly inaccessible with only the barest social media presence (using your Twitter account as nothing more than an RSS feed is not helpful) and infrequent website updates. News came late if at all, scrimmages were closed-door, and off-field events were clearly geared towards the youth soccer scene.

The bias towards youth soccer bugs me a lot, actually. Saint Louis seemed to be doing very little to reach beyond the local soccer families and 12 year old girls, let alone fans who didn’t live in the immediate region. I attended a couple of Sky Blue FC games at Rutgers and a few Washington Freedom games at the SoccerPlex in 2009, and neither team seemed quite so intent on filling the stands with pre-teen girls as Saint Louis did. I felt more welcome and at home in DC than I did at any of Saint Louis’ games.

What little media I was able to find when hunting for Athletica news online tended to quickly shift towards the men’s game. The MLS shot down Saint Louis, but there was still a strong push towards getting a men’s team. Athletica, even on its own facebook page, seems secondary to AC St. Louis. So on top of feeling like Saint Louis wasn’t interested in me as a fan, I couldn’t avoid getting the impression that the ownership wasn’t interested in Athletica as a legitimate team. No wonder the major complaint about its potential to fold has to do with the loss to the local youth soccer scene; Saint Louis wasn’t available to any other fan base.

While it could look bad for the league if Saint Louis folds, the general talk surrounding it makes me feel validated rather than bitter. So it wasn’t just me who got bad vibes off Athletica. They were hard to follow! They are hard to care about–except for the impression they will leave of the league. If you have a handful of major UNC alumni and Hope freakin’ Solo and can’t manage to market your team beyond a stereotypical base, you probably shouldn’t have nice things had a women’s soccer team to begin with.

Talk right now is that the league will take over Athletica through the end of the season. I’m hoping for westward expansion after that. I love having Philadelphia and all, but the Bay Area is my area. Way to be accessible, Pride, even from the bottom of last year’s table.


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