Best Of 2016

Because We've Got the Spirit, Yes We Do!: One of 75 reasons we love St. Louis in 2016

The St. Louligans aren't your father's fan club.

The Cardinals famously have the best fans in baseball, and our Blues supporters aren't half bad either — but if you want to see real spirit in St. Louis, you need to head to a St. Louis Football Club game at World Wide Technology Soccer Park (1 Soccer Park Road, Fenton; 636-680-0999). Forget rally towels; in the St. Louis FC fan section you'll see light-up drums, coordinated cheers and smoke bombs lit in St. Louis FC colors. These fans calls themselves the St. Louligans, and they've been a big part of the team's success since it started playing last year.

From pre-game tailgates with bigger food spreads than you get most Thanksgivings to special gear and a dedicated section in World Wide Technology Soccer Park, being a St. Louligan is a serious undertaking. But not too serious — the fan club's running joke is that "everything is silly," and that's the one rule that never requires a referee.

One of the founding members, Mitch Morice, says, "We really don't know how many people are in it — there's no roster, no dues. The team says there's 300 season tickets in that corner and they're all sold out, so somewhere north of that."

Morice claims it's all very informal. "We just set out a collection bucket, and when we do scarves or T-shirts we tack on a couple extra bucks, but everyone works together. It's a big dysfunctional family." When pressed, he admits there was some cheer practice in the off-season. But, he adds, "A lot of the best chants that come up are spur of the moment. Last year we were playing one of the Canadian teams, and one of their players faked going down and the chant was 'You've got health care.' On the scarf right now, we've got 'I want to dance with somebody' — people just started singing it at a game, and now people just break out into Whitney Houston. To see 300, 400, 500 men and women singing Whitney Houston is pretty great."

With an International Tap House trailer conveniently located near the fan section in addition to those amazing tailgate spreads, the St. Louligans enjoy their beer, but many families bring their kids along, too — Morice says his six-year-old daughter loves screaming cheers. Some high school students have even formed a group called "The Next Louligans."

While there are people in leadership positions, the St. Louligans have no elections — the group functions as a meritocracy. "Two guys said, 'Can we organize a tailgate?' And it's now huge. We've had Sugarfire come out with food, there's Nacho Night and Wing Night," Mourice says. "Same thing with the drummers — one guy said, 'I want us to have an incredible drum corps.' It started as soccer fans learning how to drum, but then one guy said, 'I've got a guy who's a great drummer, we should bring him.' It's a soccer first, drums second mentality, but now we do have a drummer with a degree in percussion." These days, the St. Louligans even have their own podcast, This is Silly with the Louligans! Each episode gets about 3,000 listens.

All this support isn't just fun and games. It's also about showing that St. Louis has a community of soccer fans ready to support a Major League Soccer team, should the MLS decide to add another team. (St. Louis FC is actually an affiliate of the Chicago Fire MLS team, similar to a minor league club in baseball.)

They're proving effective missionaries. Last year, local radio host Randy Karraker of 101ESPN's The Fast Lane talked on air about not liking soccer, and so the St. Louligans extended an invite to come out to a game (and enjoy some free beer). He did, and two days later, Kerraker announced on his show that everyone in town needs to go to a St. Louis FC game and see the St. Louligans in action.

Says Morice, "When you get somebody who is a professed soccer hater to say it's something fun, that's what it's all about. We're doing something right."