RIP AC STL. Was fun while it lasted. What a mess. http://www.stltoday.com/sports/soccer/a ... 532e9.html
A year ago, St. Louis had a men's and a women's professional soccer team getting ready to start their seasons. Now, it looks like there will be none.
The North American Soccer League office confirmed Tuesday that AC St. Louis has ceased operations. Team owner Jeff Cooper said in an e-mail he would withhold further comment until later in the week. Cooper has been trying to sell the team for months in an effort to keep it alive, but that hasn't happened. The NASL, the second-division league in American soccer, lists eight teams on its website but not AC St. Louis, and while it hasn't announced a full schedule, it has announced its teams' season openers and none involves AC St. Louis.
It's possible that Cooper might be looking to restart the team at a later date. The NASL said the team would have to reapply for admission to the league.
After spending — and losing — millions of dollars running the Athletica of Women's Professional Soccer and trying to bring an MLS team to St. Louis, Cooper decided to get out of the soccer business after the Athletica's 2009 season and handed off operations of the team and its expansion brethren AC St. Louis to two brothers, Heemal and Sanjeev Vaid, of London. But the two left town in May, leaving behind a pile of unpaid bills that led to the abrupt shuttering of the Athletica, which had been one of WPS' marquee teams.
AC St. Louis was able to arrange financing to finish out the season — just one payday was late — but without any new investors, the viability of the team was in doubt.
The closing of the Athletica was the start of a rough year for the financially struggling WPS. At the end of the season, two other teams, FC Gold Pride, the league champs, and the Chicago Red Stars, shut down and two other teams barely survived. With the addition of an expansion team in western New York, what had been the world's premier women's league is down to six teams, all on the East Coast.
AC St. Louis had a record of 7-15-8 and finished 11th in the 12-team U.S. Soccer Division 2 Pro League, the league set up by U.S. Soccer in the wake of a battle between rival second-division leagues. The team got off to a 1-7-1 start under coach Claude Anelka, and the situation was weird from the start. In the team's first game, one of its players didn't have the necessary papers to be allowed to play, so the team played the first 30 minutes of the game with just 10 players while the player returned to the team hotel to get his paperwork. By the time he got back to the stadium, AC St. Louis was behind 2-0.
Anelka was eventually fired and veteran youth coach Dale Schilly took over and gradually got the team to where it was contending for a playoff spot but then lost four of its final five games.
After attracting 5,600 for its first game, the team drew about 2,200 to 2,500 for most of its remaining games at the A-B Center in Fenton