The next few months will be an exciting time to be a sports fan in Missouri. The Kansas City Chiefs enter the NFL playoffs as Super Bowl favorites, the Truman State University women’s basketball team is putting together a solid season, the University of Missouri men’s basketball is ranked for the first time in years and two new expansion franchises will begin to play in St. Louis during February. This spring provides plenty for Missouri sports fans to get excited about.
The Chiefs, in what has ostensibly been called a “rebuilding” year after trading away all-pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill, once again begin the NFL playoffs as the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes has put up an MVP-caliber season again, and the Chiefs managed to get the top seed in the AFC despite playing many close games and losing to several teams they should have beaten. At times, the Chiefs appeared bored by the monotony of the regular season, waiting to turn it on for the playoffs, which is precisely what they did Saturday in an impressive 27-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even with Mahomes playing through an ankle injury, the Chiefs could quickly dispense of the Jaguars. The Chiefs are easily the most complete team remaining in the NFL postseason, but Mahomes’ health may derail them in their quest for the Super Bowl this year.
The Truman women’s basketball team is also putting together a very impressive season. The Bulldogs are currently 13-6, with a 9-2 record in conference play. Senior Hannah Belanger has become the third-leading scorer in Bulldog history and fellow senior Ellie Weltha joined the 1000-point club this season. The Bulldogs have dominated many of their games, posting seven double-digit victories on the season. They have several home games remaining on the schedule and will look to make a deep postseason run during March.
The Mizzou men’s basketball team is putting up one of its best seasons in a decade. Led by several key transfer players, Mizzou has beat three ranked teams this season, including border rivalry games against the University of Arkansas and the University of Illinois. The win against Illinois was a statement for Mizzou, as the game was a blowout and Mizzou was not ranked at the time. Mizzou will be looking for its first NCAA tournament bid in two years and will look to win its first NCAA tournament game since 2010 this season.
In perhaps the most exciting development over the coming months, two new professional sports franchises will begin to play in St. Louis. Football fans may remember the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks from their successful debut during 2020. Football fans in St. Louis were devastated when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the XFL to cancel their season and ultimately shut down the league. Having been spurned by the NFL’s Rams four years prior, St. Louisans were eager to show that they could easily support a professional football franchise, and they did just that. The city showed up in such large numbers during 2020 for the Battlehawks that the team decided to open the upper level of the Dome at America’s Center to meet the demand for tickets. The energy was incredible and fans longed for another chance to show their support after its cancellation.
Luckily, the league was purchased by Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson later during 2020 and is set to be revived during 2023. The Battlehawks return with the same logo and color scheme as 2020. The XFL will bring back its slightly different rules this season, with altered kickoffs and punts that seek to prioritize player safety and game action. The league also allows teams to attempt three-point conversions after touchdowns to make it easier to come back from deficits. The Battlehawks begin play Feb.18, and I could not be more excited to watch every one of their games this spring.
Major League Soccer will also make its debut in St. Louis this spring — and technically in Missouri because Sporting Kansas City plays its home games in Kansas. After years of failed attempts to build a stadium and bring an MLS team to St. Louis, a team led by Carolyn Kindle Betz finally put together a private financing plan and won an expansion team. St. Louis City SC has assembled an intriguing squad of international, domestic, and local talent, headlined by former FC Bayern Munich goalkeeper Roman Burki. Though they may lack a true star, the team has plenty of depth and should see some success this season. City, as they are known around St. Louis, begins to play Feb. 25, and though I am not a huge fan of the name, I am stoked to attend some home games this year.
This is an exciting time for Missouri sports. The Chiefs look to claim another super bowl championship, Truman women’s basketball looks to make a deep playoff run and two brand-new professional teams launch their seasons in the coming months. I hope you will enjoy watching as much as me.