Read all of our 2023 season guidelines for every MLS team eliminated from the postseason here.
St. Louis City SC was one of the best stories in the league in 2023, putting together a historic expansion season, roster spending and what we all call experts. However, the season ended prematurely for the No. 1 seed, falling to rival Sporting KC in the first round of the tournament.
St. Louis had an elite home atmosphere, a handful of quality players who quickly went from unknowns to household MLS names, and played an interesting high-pressure, transition style. The way the season ended certainly hurts, but it shouldn’t take away from how impressive St. Louis’ first campaign in MLS has been.
Short version: not everything was perfect. The numbers below show the cracks. Staying near the top of the Western Conference won’t be easy.
List of names
Head Coach: Bradley Carnell (starting 2022) Head Football Officer: Lutz Pfannenstiel (starting 2020)
I’m not sure there’s a single player in the St.Louis rotation that’s beyond their contract. That is excellent scouting and training.
At the top of the list, Roman Burki was the best goalkeeper in MLS, Edward Lowen among the best central midfielders and Joao Klaus was the lead striker for a legitimately excellent team. Next, expansion draft picks Jared Stroud, Indiana Vasilev and Nico Gioacchini had career-best seasons. So does Sam Adniran. and Kyle Hibbert. The list goes on.
The academy has produced a number of players who have already secured first-tier contracts and has a head coach who is not afraid to play young players. This academy will be one of the most successful in MLS in a short period of time.
That veteran core of Burke, Loewen, Klaus and Tim Parker will return next season, plus several young players. Much good St. Louis lasts.
Although not everything is permanent.
St. Louis has significantly outperformed the expected goal differential (+17 GD vs. -8.48 xGD, swinging over 25 goals) and those types of things will come back. Just ask Austin FC.
That doesn’t take anything away from their history. You won’t win or lose by expected goals…but it helps predict early playoff exits and where to focus in the offseason.
Outside of Parker, the backline lacked quality. Joakim Nilsson was supposed to be the anchor of the defense, but he missed the year with an injury and didn’t step up to the plate. Let’s see how it looks in year two. For some reason, Johnny Nelson stopped getting minutes at left back as the season went on, despite a solid early season performance.
Njabulom of Bloom. In his first season in MLS, he was not consistent in the defensive midfield. Klaus has missed time with an injury and hasn’t played more than 1,500 league minutes since 2018. Bad luck or is this a trend?
What can change?
St. Louis has an open roster spot behind Lowen and Klaus, a highly capable chip to add to the team if they so choose this summer. Although I’m sure many players will seek improved contract extensions this summer, their salary cap is extremely healthy. The city hasn’t spent any big money on the commercial space, so they should have a lot in reserve. St. Louis could take two swings this summer to build on an impressive first season.
St. Louis’ long-awaited first year away from home in MLS did not disappoint as the team has one of the most home-field advantages in MLS. The stadium and training ground are elite.
St. Louis is a low-spending team that publicly believes they are developing young players instead of big contracts for veterans. But that doesn’t mean the team should spend less. Could there be room for big transfer fees this summer? TBD
High level striker
Klaus is a very good player and could be a leading forward for a top team in MLS. Lowen is an elite midfielder who can play multiple roles in midfield. Still, the attack lacks another top-level contributor; He could be a creative type to feed the scorers and take some of the load off Klaus.
St. Louis conceded a lot of quality prospects this year. The burden on Burki was too great. Opponents also missed many opportunities for God. These things don’t happen normally.
Parker had a rotating group of teammates without Nilsson, as Kyle Hiebert, Josh Yarrow and Lucas Bartlett picked up most of the slack. They should have the capacity to take another swing in the global market as well as domestically. The free agent class always has some solid center back options.
St. Louis’ three most important players have been locked up for a long time. Burke (through 2025), Klaus (2025, option for 2026) and Lowen (2026 with 2027 option) are all set.
Behind them, Parker’s contract expires after 2024. Aziel Jackson has club options for the next two years, but the Stars should inquire about an improved deal after the season. Stroud has an option for 2024 while Gioachini is under contract until 2024 with a club option for 2025.
(Photos: Getty Images)