It's been a busy year for St. Louis soccer fans.
More than 40,000 of them raced to get tickets to Busch Stadium when Manchester City challenged Chelsea in May 2012. The same thing happened three months later, when more than 54,000 football fanatics packed the Edward Jones Dome to catch Real Madrid beating Inter Milan. The game set the record for the most fans at a St. Louis soccer event ever.
By November, when the Argentinian national team challenged Bosnia-Herzegovina at Busch Stadium, sales started to slip a bit. The crowd, mostly of die-hard Bosnia fans, wasn't record-breaking, but at 30,000, the message seemed clear: St. Louis is still a soccer-loving city.
Now, soccer lovers are wringing their hands as ticket sales for a pre-World Cup match between Bosnia and the Ivory Coast national teams seem stagnant.
"Early results ticket sales-wise have not been as strong as two of the three matches that were held last year with Real Madrid and Inter Milan and then the game last spring at Busch with [Manchester] City and Chelsea," says Jake Bye, the St. Louis Rams' vice president of ticket sales and premium seating, in an interview with FOX Sports.
"It's a little tricky because it's not apples-to-apples in a lot of ways as well, comparing the participating teams, the type of match that it is. Until you've sold 30,000-plus and you're on par with last year's numbers, I think the answer is always going to be, 'Yeah, we wish more tickets would have been sold.' But that's always the answer."
So if the Bosnia v. Ivory Coast game doesn't match "apples-to-apples" with the other three games played in St. Louis in the last year, what's different?
Here are ten reasons why ticket sales might be slow this time:
1. There's no Cristiano Ronaldo.
Superstars sell tickets, and love him or hate him, Ronaldo is a soccer superstar. Fans rushed onto the field to meet the 2013 FIFA Ballon d'Or winner when he played against Inter Milan at the Edward Jones Dome, giving us this amazing image:
Don't get us wrong. Both the Ivory Coast and Bosnian teams have talented players poised to take their countries far in this year's tournament -- and who are well worth buying tickets to see. But players like Ronaldo are more than just talented players; they're world-wide brands.2. Some fans wait until the prices go down. The St. Louligans aren't worried about slow ticket sales.
3. There's no Messi.
It's no surprise that this one isn't selling well. A lot of us are waiting for the price drop like last game. http://t.co/m2aXDC0duB— St.Louligans (@StLouligans) March 27, 2014
See No. 1. Lionel Messi was scheduled to play with the Argentinian national team against Bosnia, but an injury pulled him out. It's possible that Messi, a world-renowned player and insatiable scorer, would have drawn thousands more fans to Busch Stadium if he'd set foot on the pitch. But there's no one like Messi on the national teams for Bosnia or Ivory Coast.
4. There's no media coverage. Local and sports outlets were all over St. Louis' first big friendly games. The New York Times even profiled Vedad Ibisevic, the talented Bosnian player with roots in the St. Louis soccer scene, before the big game against Argentina. But for this World Cup preview match, things are much quieter. Some fans may not even know the game is coming.
Read more reasons why sales are slow -- and find out how to get your own tickets -- on page two.
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