Former Major League Soccer iron man Steve Ralston will make his debut to night for North American Soccer League first year franchise AC St. Louis amid swirling rumors that the franchises very existence may be in doubt.

Ralston stepping on the field to represent his hometown team should mean a night of celebration for soccer in St. Louis, long thought of as an ideal American soccer community, but the night will be over shadowed by the wringing hands of St. Louis fans and frantic calls from the team offices.

According to the St. Louis Globe Democrat, the teams English investor, who were contracted to support the NASL team and it’s Womens Proffesional Soccer counterpart Saint Louis Athletica through 2011 have run into financial difficulties putting both clubs at risk.

Local owner/investor Jeff Cooper, has been trying to put together finds to keep the clubs operating.  Though the USSF, who operates the USSF Division 2, which AC St. Louis is a member, is assisting the attempts to collect the necessary funding, they have given the St. Louis clubs until early next week to come up with operational money, the Globe-dispatch reports.

“U.S. Soccer is aware of some challenges that are currently going on and we are diligently working through the situation.” The USSF said, through spokesman Neil Buethe.

The troubles not only are concerning for the immediate future of the club, but also place the fledgling NASL in a bad light and may deal a final blow to the city’s bid to land the 20th Major League Soccer franchise. The investors lack the financial clout that can put them on the same footing as the tantalizing bid for a second team in New York or Miami.

Crystal Palace Baltimore, another NASL franchise rumored to be in financial trouble, may not be in such trouble after all. League sources call the rumors regarding Baltimore “Overblown”.

Tonight the St. Louis situation can be temporarily forgotten as a native son takes the field wearing the colors of his new local side. Hopefully Ralston will have many more opportunities to do just that.

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