USL PRO Announces New Franchise in Phoenix for 2013
USL PRO announced today that a new franchise will kick off in Phoenix, Arizona for the 2013 season. Details were limited in the USL press release.
The franchise will be owned and operated by BDR Sports, LLC, a consortium of Phoenix-based investors led by local developer Tim Thomas. Rui Filipe Bento, a longtime Phoenix soccer entrepreneur, will serve as its General Manager.
“This is an important moment for USL PRO as we continue to build for the future,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “USL PRO is already experiencing a great deal of success on and off the field, and the addition of a solid group in Phoenix continues our plan of western expansion which will ultimately lead to eastern and western conferences. BDR Sports’ leaders possess the vision and experience to make professional soccer a success in Phoenix through USL PRO, and we welcome them into our family.”
According to the Tucson Sentinel, Bento also directs Phoenix’s Benfica Soccer Academy.
The Phoenix expansion team is currently unnamed and is still looking for a venue. USL President Tim Holt told the Sentinel that they are looking for a stadium that would hold a minimum of 2,500 fans. The press release states that the future team will host a launch event including the formal announcement of the team name, stadium, and coaching staff later this summer.
Currently, USL PRO has only one other team, the LA Blues, in the west. All other teams are located in the east with Antigua Barracuda FC located in the Caribbean.
USL PRO was a re-launch of Division III pro soccer from the formerly named USL II. It was precipitated when the majority of their Division II teams moved to the NASL. About that same time the USSF set strict financial standards for D II teams that only a few of the remaining USL PRO teams could have met. USL PRO was also said to be a regional model which has worked well for 9 of the 11 teams that are located up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Over the last two season the LA Blues have been the only team in the west, yet Holt has made no secret of the fact that USL would also like a western division.
The announcement comes only one day after the Phoenix Business Journal published a story on the potential of the NASL starting a team in the city. NASL Commissioner David Downs told IMS in late May that San Diego, Phoenix, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Sacramento and the greater Los Angeles area (Anaheim, Riverside) were all targets for expansion.