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USL PRO Announces Expansion Team in Sacramento; But is Another NASL/USL Conflict Heating Up?

2012 December 4
tags: ,
by Brian Quarstad

Mayor Johnson (left), with Warren Smith (middle) at the press conference announcing the new USL PRO team. (Photo by Benjamin Ormsby)

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.

Dale Kasler with the Scaramento Bee seems to be tracking both story lines. You can follow him on Twitter here.

29 Responses
  1. Bart permalink
    December 4, 2012

    OK, I will bite….. how does this announcement and your article bring forth a question on whether there will be a “heating up” of a conflict between NASL and USL Pro?

    I see this as nothing more than USL taking one step at a time and doing what they said they would be doing, which is to regionalize the USL Pro league on a national basis.

    Are Davidson and nextor scheming somthing vile and malicious that the world doesn’t know about?

  2. GaelForce permalink
    December 4, 2012

    I think it might have something to do with the fact that NASL had mentioned Phoenix and Sacremento as areas that they were talking to people and then USL teams got announced there out of leftfield. I like hearing news of potential sites for expansion but now I think it’s best NASL keep their cards close to their chest.

  3. Tom permalink
    December 4, 2012

    IMO, Sacramento will make an excellent 3rd division soccer market (maybe even 2nd Division, but MLS would be a huge stretch). Travel will always be an issue on the west coast as even Phoenix is 750 miles away and a 2 hour flight – but plenty of them. The one drawback is that the stadium is primarily for football with a turf field, football lines, and a huge track around it so maybe not the greatest fan experience. It also seats 23K, so the crowd might get a bit swallowed up.

  4. sean permalink
    December 4, 2012

    I’d rather see USL PRO establish their western division, give it a few seasons and let’s see which team has the best support and facilities, how deep the pockets of the owners are and how ambitious they are and then try to ‘snag’ (‘promote’) them to the NASL.

  5. evan permalink
    December 4, 2012

    “the Los Angeles Blues having already developed a successful presence in Southern California” LOL

  6. john permalink
    December 4, 2012

    I say if NASL want west coast establish
    Anaheim, san diego, Calgary, las vegas, and Austin
    Truth I saw Sacramento as USL territory
    I wish San Diego Sockers and Anaheim Bolts field an outdoor team
    There indoor rivalry is serious especially this year with Anaheim trying to win every game to keep heat on san Diego
    Also Real Phoenix which is indoor wants to field an outdoor but pro team
    I want to ask Brian if you can talk to the head group of Real Phoenix and ask
    Truth I thought any team that was going to kSacramento it would be Sacramento Gold moving up from NPSL
    If NASL wants to get all the good market in Cali- I say go for San Diego, Anaheim, Fresno, and San Fransico
    And if NASL wants to build rivalry like the pacific northwest
    They should go after the rust belt Derby team soccernewsday had op-ed on it
    Also Detroit city fc fanbase are like the sounders that will bring excitement to the league right now the cosmos were seen as the haven but right now they are acting like jerks
    NASL should get Detroit city fc before Michigan bucks or USL pro act on it and NASL should not talk about their expansion like they did so far if so talk about cities that you do not want so USL pro will jump on them because if you look the teams that USL pro announce are teams that downs said earlier let’s hope st Louis is not next by the USL

  7. Silly permalink
    December 4, 2012

    No different than what happened in SA. USL was there first, but NASL got the team up an running first.

  8. Dave permalink
    December 4, 2012

    NASL needs a team or two in the pacific time zone for USSF certification as D2. It might have been nice to get Sacramento (which is not a small town), but there are other spots. San Diego would be a coup, and Phoenix would be a solid choice as well (assuming good ownership, etc.).

  9. GaelForce permalink
    December 4, 2012

    Of course if they could work together, teams could start in USL Pro and if successful move up. It would really be in the best interest of the game for MLS, NASL and USL to sit down and work out a framework to work together.

  10. Mac permalink
    December 4, 2012

    “It would really be in the best interest of the game for MLS, NASL, and USL to sit down and work out a framework together.”
    Are you bringing logic into this?
    It’s good that MLS and NASL are, apparently, developing some kind of ties/relationship. Hopefully NASL and USL come to play nice (which both would likely benefit from).

    I think we are watching US soccer developing sixty professional teams, minimum, by 2020 (with some bumps in the road along the way). Just like a proper soccer nation.

  11. December 4, 2012

    @John: Ok. I think it’s about that time…Again…

    You know of those times when I tell you how I love your passion, love your enhusiasm, etc.

    Then I address some of your points that I just can’t ignore because they are so far outside of our current reality that they either make you a visionary or just plain old crazy.

    Where do I start?

    In no particular order:

    1) San Diego Sockers and Anaheim Bolts are NOT going to be playing in any league named PASL. Bro, there is a reason that they’re playin’ in a league where the team salary cap per game maxes out a only $3000. A league where the “stars” are getting paid a max of $400 (average). They way in what is primarily a bus league. Absolutely nothing wrong with the PASL business model. I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying that they don’t got NASL money. They’re not even close to USLPRO operating money.

    2) Detroit City FC-comparing it to the Sounders?!?! What Sounders club are you comparing them to? Because you can’t possibly be seriously comparing them the USL First Division, or old NASL or current, MLS Sounders. Bro, you can’t even compare them to the 2012 Sounders Women featuring national teamers like Hope “I Wanna Be a Pop Star (except for when I’m having man trouble then I’m a victim) Solo. You’re giving Detroit props that they simply haven’t earned yet. Enough said about that, my man.

    3) What makes Sacremento “USL territory”? What about hat market screamed out to you “USLPRO!!!”? Just curious.

    4) “D2″ Downs wasn’t giving away any big secrets when he discussed potential expansion markets. USLPRO didn’t just suddenly realize that those markets exist and decided to “poach” them.

    There’s only but so many, viable, potential markets that can possibly support pro soccer. Hell, that’s not rocket science. Finding a ownshership group with a venue that is workable is the real challenge.

    NASL has more hurdles to clear with the USSF requirements than USLPRO-but hey, it’ll all be water under the bridge when NASL and MLS merge or we have promotion/relegation, right (insert rolled eyes, here)…

    That’s all for now. My brain has shut down.

    Peace, Playah!

  12. December 4, 2012

    The NASL will go to the West Coast like San Diego, Anaheim and Las Vegas. Then in the mid-west they’ll expand in Indianapolis and Detroit. The USL will expand to St.Louis and Milwaukee.

  13. Bart permalink
    December 4, 2012

    I think USL Pro should just shut down the office and recognize that NASL is the superior and fundamentally better league.

    It had to be a mistake for USL Pro to go to Sacramento and Phoenix, NASL already had dibs on that. It is just not fair!

  14. WSW permalink
    December 4, 2012

    I want to see one successful “new” franchise by USL.

    Isn’t it curious that where the teams that broke away from USL to NASL. USL in a vendetta pops up new teams.

    PR islanders broke away, what does USL do..BAM 2 new USL teams in area.

    Rowdies break away from USL…BAM new team in Tampa.

    NASL has D2 standards and better prospects.

    and the USL west coast division is going to be a sham just like International division..attendance of 300 people.

  15. John permalink
    December 4, 2012

    lets hope not but i want to know the finances of the usl pro teams

    and yankiboy let me clarify Detroit

    i meant Detroit grassroots and fan loyalty has the potential to resemble the sounders or San Antonio

    why do i say that because Detroit fans are serious

    when NPSL announce a new team for 2013 in Detroit backyard it let the Detroit fans respond in way that you expect that hooliganism to happen in Europe

    so far three teams jump out to me that can a potential strong fanbase: Detroit FC, AFC Cleveland, and Fresno Fuego

    If NASL is looking to expand they should go after Victoria Highlanders- I like their ownership structure

    Like I said if NASL wants to expand in California I say San Francisco, San Diego, Anaheim, or Fresno

    I respect USL commitment to westward expansion
    My favorite team in USL Pro is LA Blues if
    MLS wants to rebrand Chivas or get rid of them
    They should promote LA BLues or talk to the organization instead of creating a new LA team entirely

  16. Fotbalist permalink
    December 4, 2012

    @ John – seriously? Please! That’s too much.

    @ AL – Is that a prophecy we should put in writing? I mean, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, but your conviction is a curiosity to me.

    Anyhow, perhaps I need a break. We’re all a little disappointed with the NASL these days, and we just might be inclined to be more critical than typical.

  17. Silly permalink
    December 5, 2012

    John

    Where is all of the money going to come from to promote the 2 NPSL teams? What makes you think Fresno is going to leave USL?

  18. Dave permalink
    December 6, 2012

    I love how you are all throwing out names and expanding the NASL and USL-Pro as if minor league soccer is a big draw or something. Remember when the old A-League had like 50 teams(okay that was hyperbole)? How did that work out?

  19. WSW permalink
    December 6, 2012

    A-league didn’t have such stringent D2 syandards.

  20. Armando Diaz permalink
    December 7, 2012

    Outside of BQ and a few others I love how so many of you talk about teams and scenarios without knowing what is really going on.

  21. John Pandad permalink
    December 7, 2012

    As much as I think it would be sweet to have Detroit City FC in the NASL, it’s not going to happen, at least not yet. Mainly because of the fact that they don’t have the deep pocketed owners to pull it off. They have the best owners for their current situation as a team. Now, 2 or 3 years from now, if the team continues to play well and attendance continues to grow, maybe a deeper pocketed owner buys the team and moves it up. Maybe.

    But if anyone here hasn’t checked out Detroit City FC, you should. There is truly something special growing in Detroit, and the organization is class top to bottom, from logo to website

  22. December 7, 2012

    How about the Michigan Bucks? Unlike the NPSL team you just mentioned that have only been around for a year, the Bucks have been around for 17 years.

  23. John permalink
    December 7, 2012

    yeah i agree with you brian about the bucks but i think dfc because they made their team a community team instead of a development team like the bucks

    while the bucks have a consistent fan base I think DFC will surpass it in years. While Bucks have rivals it does not compare to the rust belt derby

    DFC reminds me of our current Cosmos in promotions that their jerseys have been seen in different MLS media outlets.

    Beginning of the year I thought if a team was going to expand in Michigan it should be Bucks but after hearing about DFC and watching them I say DFC is a better fit for either NASL or USL Pro.

    Not only that DFC like Seattle brings something to the table- their rival teams that will increase fanbase and media exposure

    Like JP said if you have not check DFC facebook page check it out.

    Also Brian if you had to choose which will be a better fit for expansion in Detroit which team will you pick-DFC or Bucks

  24. Fotbalist permalink
    December 7, 2012

    I have been very impressed with Detroit City FC but we really need one or two more seasons of the same to start speaking of stability. Having said that, I think we are looking at two teams who will compete in the same metro. This is good.

  25. Bart permalink
    December 8, 2012

    Wow, NEWS FLASH…..

    Davidson and Holt have agreed to a 5 round boxing match to determine which league deserves to be called the best league under MLS.

    The match will be held in New York at the Garden, and tickets will be $17.50 per head.

    Both Davidson and Holt were boxers in high school and in the Navy, with Davidson holding the light heavyweight second place title in Texas and Holt having earned honors as the middleweight golden gloves champion in Rhode Island.

    The winner will earn majority shareholder certificates in the other company.

    The match is sheduled to occur on April 1st, 2013.

  26. Fotbalist permalink
    December 9, 2012

    @ Bart – this is your best post ever. Love it.

  27. Vnice permalink
    December 10, 2012

    Not to totally change the subject, but…

    Did anyone check out the “new” “crest” that Harrisburg has? They just took the old shitty ABA-style logo (Flint Tropics, anyone?) and stuck it into a generic shield-style crest with Microsoft Paint. It’s one of the most embarassing things I have ever seen.

    Anyway, I think the bottom line is, minor-league soccer will always be minor league soccer. NASL *miiiiight* get to some sort of respectability. Hopefully, average attendance of 5000 will be met one day. Maybe a legit Cosmos will begin play. Who knows?

    All I know is, the whole thing will continue to look Mickey Mouse as long as games are played in these shitty multi-purpose gridiron stadiums.

  28. December 10, 2012

    Yes, I did see that Vnice. When I heard they had a new badge I was hopeful that they had rebranded but as you say, they just took the old logo and stuck it in a badge with some new minor copy. Working in the graphics industry, this sort of thing drives me nuts.

  29. Fotbalist permalink
    December 11, 2012

    @Vnice & BQ -
    You are so right about this ‘small time’ approach that some teams are taking so they can save a few bucks. Especially since the logo is crucial as part of the branding and image of the club. This isn’t brain surgery or rocket science. I just contracted a graphic artist to design a logo for me and give it to me in a vector format. He asked me a bunch of questions for about 1 hr, then asked me to suggest some ideas for him to look at. A week later he gave me 3 different options. We discussed it and it cost a total of $500. If you are a club who can’t afford a $500 dollar expense for your logo, I don’t know….

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