Leo Messi and Argentina set for St. Louis appearance

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For a city without an MLS team or an actual soccer stadium, St. Louis has been flush with big-time soccer matches in 2013. The Midwest outpost (with a rich soccer history, it should be noted) gets another plum in November when the world’s best player makes a scheduled appearance.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the news today that baseball’s Cardinals have arranged an Argentina- Bosnia and Herzegovina meeting for Busch Stadium on Nov. 18. The contest is contingent on Bosnia having already qualified for the World Cup by that date, the newspaper reported.

The November date follows plum matches earlier this year featuring English giants Manchester City and Chelsea (also at Busch Stadium) and another one featuring Spanish heavyweight Real Madrid (that one at the Edward Jones Dome).

The newspaper also reported that Argentina and Barcelona superstar Leo Messi (currently on the injury shelf but expected back well before November) is contractually obligated to appear at Busch Stadium in the fall friendly.

The previous matches were well-attended (more than 100,000 fans combined), and all of this underscores what so many of us have thought for years: that St. Louis has tremendous potential as a Major League Soccer outpost.

But, as I’ve written again and again, plotting out the MLS expansion map – the league is going to 24 teams by 2020, you know – isn’t just about geographical balance and “good soccer markets.” Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case.

The reality is that MLS expansion targeting is a difficult balance between the right kind of ownership, the right facility plan, the right local government support and those geographical concerns. St. Louis got close a few years back, but the ownership group just didn’t have the requisite financial muscle.

Maybe these matches can somehow shift the expansion balance.