USL PRO Announces Expansion Team in Sacramento; But is Another NASL/USL Conflict Heating Up?
On Monday the United Soccer Leagues took a big step forward in building a USL PRO West Coast regional division with an announcement that Sacramento, Ca. will be added to the league in 2014.
USL PRO, which is the third tier of professional soccer in the U.S., has 9 of its 11 teams located on or near the East Cost and has stated that the revamped USL PRO league is interested in regional divisions to save costs and build rivalries.
USL President Tim Holt told IMS in 2011 that his organization wanted to expand to the west to create a similar footprint as the East Coast teams. Currently, USL has only one team, the Los Angeles Blues, located on the West Cost with expansion team Phoenix FC to join the league for the 2013 season.
Warren Smith, SVP of Business Development for Clean World Partners and co-founder of the Sacramento Rivercats of Minor League Baseball, will lead the new franchise. Smith is said to have formerly worked with the Portland Timbers before they moved to MLS. A report says Smith’s group is negotiating to play its home games at recently refurbished Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College, a 21,000 seat stadium that received new turf with football lines, renovated bleachers and a face lift given to restrooms and locker rooms.
“USL PRO is thrilled to expand into Sacramento for the 2014 season,” Holt said in a prepared press release. “With Phoenix FC Wolves joining the league in 2013 and the Los Angeles Blues having already developed a successful presence in Southern California, Sacramento represents yet another significant step towards our objective of achieving a regionalized competition approach in the West.”
The Sacramento franchise, which is yet to be named, plans a series of exhibition matches during 2013. They also plan on involving themselves in the community with supporter events, soccer clinics and player appearances. They will also look to their fans for help in naming the team.
Smith said, “Sacramento is one of the strongest soccer regions in the country.”
Sacramento has some of the highest youth soccer participation rates in the country, as well as successful high school and collegiate programs.
There was other big soccer news coming out of the Sacramento area on Monday. Dale Kasler with the Sacramento Bee reports that neighboring Elk Grove mayor-elect Gary Davis had a sit down with Don Garber last weekend at MLS Cup and discussed the town’s future chances of expanding into the city he will soon be presiding over.
Kasler reports that “former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is negotiating with the city on a stadium in the southeast part of Elk Grove. The proposal surfaced about a year ago, and the city signed a negotiating agreement with Nunez’s group.”
He also reports that this same group has been in talks with the NASL but things were put on hold when former Commissioner David Downs stepped down. Downs reported to IMS in early November that he was traveling to Sacramento for talks with a group about possible expansion plans for the league. Downs had previously stated that Sacremento was one of the towns where the NASL would like to expand.
Sacramento is the 25th largest major metropolitan area in the US with a population of 2,176,235.