soccer made in st. louis

Bosnia secured its first-ever appearance in the World Cup by finishing first in Group G of European qualifying. Bosnia clinched the automatic berth in its last qualifying match on Oct. 15, thanks to a goal from former St. Louis University player Ibisevic. He scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Lithuania.

The Busch Stadium match will be a major homecoming for Ibisevic, who came with his family to St. Louis as a teen-ager. He was the NCAA freshman player of the year at St. Louis University in 2003. He turned professional after his freshman season and plays for VfB Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga.

“I was kind of skeptical that we would ever get to see Bosnia play here,

Adnan Gabeljic, one of about 70,000 Bosnians who call St. Louis home

but then we had the two international matches here this summer,” Gabeljic said. “People started talking about Bosnia coming here after that.”

After a six-year absence, international friendlies returned to St. Louis in a big way this year. Chelsea played Manchester City in the first soccer game ever at Busch Stadium on May 23 before a sellout crowd of 48, 263. The match sold out in 20 minutes after public ticket sales opened. Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo faced Inter Milan at the Edward Jones Dome on August 10 with 54,184 on hand. That crowd set a record for a soccer match in Missouri, breaking the previous mark set in Kansas City for a game between Sporting Kansas City and Manchester United.

Although the major tenants of Busch Stadium — the Cardinals — were busy with the Major League Baseball playoffs, the Cardinals’ ownership eagerly took on the Argentina friendly. “We were going to sit back and take it easy until 2014, but we could not resist the chance to have a game with these two teams,” said Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III. “We’re aggressively pushing the envelope, but at least we don’t have to work this match around the baseball schedule (as the Cardinals did for the Chelsea-Manchester City game.)”

A healthy Messi would be the major draw were this match to be staged in any other U.S. city — but not in St. Louis, where Bosnia is the big attraction.

“We have enough Bosnians in St. Louis to fill up the stadium ourselves,” Gabeljic said.