USL getting closer to expanding into D.C. and Baltimore markets
The United Soccer League, a second-division circuit with 33 groups and rising, is shifting closer to expanding into each the Washington and Baltimore markets.
In an interview Thursday, USL President Jake Edwards mentioned the league is working carefully with teams in each areas. D.C. United would personal and function a staff in Loudoun County, Va., with a possible debut in spring 2019, whereas unspecified traders are aiming to construct a stadium in higher Baltimore for a 2020 launch.
United made its ambitions clear a couple of years in the past however didn’t start significantly pursuing a USL staff till the Audi Field undertaking in Southwest D.C. got here to fruition. Last month, United and Loudoun County introduced they’d reached settlement to construct a 5,000-seat stadium for a second-tier staff, plus coaching fields and places of work on 54 acres at Leesburg’s Philip A. Bolen Memorial Park.
On Wednesday, the county’s board of supervisors voted in favor of advancing the proposal to a attainable ultimate vote subsequent week.
“A few moving parts on this project for those guys, and so it’s taken some time,” Edwards mentioned from his Tampa workplace. “I’m sure we’ll get something done. Bit of work to do yet, but it’s getting close.”
The sides will meet once more quickly, Edwards mentioned, “and try to get everything wrapped up.”
MLS has accredited United’s efforts to run a USL staff, mentioned Mark Abbott, MLS’s president and deputy commissioner. The USL has but to approve the D.C. and Baltimore bids.
“For what they are trying to achieve, I think it will be a good facility for D.C. United and a good facility for Loudoun,” Edwards mentioned. “We have to look at what’s right for division-two soccer and what makes sense for the USL. I applaud what they are doing and what they are trying to do. I think it’s going to be a very nice complex.”
Several years in the past, Loudoun County was slated to land a second-flight staff within the North American Soccer League, a USL competitor. But plans to launch Virginia Cavalry FC as a part of a baseball-soccer initiative in Ashburn fell by.
Nine MLS golf equipment personal USL groups. The foremost objective is participant improvement and integration of enjoying and teaching philosophies. It’s additionally a possibility to develop a corporation’s model with the identical colours or names, comparable to New York Red Bulls II and Real Monarchs (Real Salt Lake). In the Memorandum of Agreement with the county, United mentioned it goals to incorporate “Loudoun” into the staff identify.
D.C. would additionally conduct each day coaching classes on the advanced for the primary staff, B staff and youth academy, and transfer all player-related actions to Leesburg from the RFK Stadium campus. Front-office personnel, comparable to advertising and marketing and ticketing, will transfer into Audi Field in May or June, the staff says.
If the Loudoun undertaking is accredited and the USL grants the staff in time for 2019, United would minimize ties after this season with its longtime second-division associates, the independently owned Richmond Kickers.
Richmond, based in 1993, would then turn out to be a regional rival with United’s B staff and, if Baltimore is accredited, be a part of a rising USL presence within the Mid-Atlantic area.
“We’re looking to see where the gaps are, what markets make sense and where they can have success from a business point of view,” Edwards mentioned of the USL’s nationwide footprint. “D.C. United has a big pull, but to have teams in Richmond, Baltimore and Northern Virginia, I think people will want to attend those games” between the groups.
Edwards is bullish on Baltimore, a market within the mildew of Cincinnati and Sacramento, the USL’s hottest markets. He mentioned the league continues to work with the possession group, and the stadium stays the first hurdle.
“They’re getting quite close to finalizing the stadium location and stadium plan to present us,” Edwards mentioned. “That’s the last point, really. Once we’re comfortable with that and we’ve crossed that hurdle, then we’ll be able to make an announcement.”
Edwards described Baltimore’s stadium plan as “fairly substantial — not a small, pop-up stadium.” He declined to go into element. Of the Charm City market, he added: “Baltimore has a huge passion for the game. They’re going to do really well. We just have to get the right stadium and the right location.”
The USL will develop to Fresno, Las Vegas, Nashville and Atlanta this yr. In addition, North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven have migrated from the struggling NASL. Future growth consists of Memphis, Birmingham and Austin in 2019, plus Chicago and Oakland in future years.
Meantime, Abbott and Edwards mentioned the USL and MLS have mentioned extending the connection. The present pact expires in December 2019.
“We have a very positive relationship with them and look forward to extending the agreement,” Abbott mentioned. “It’s a productive and strategic element to our player development initiative” with MLS-run USL groups enjoying weekly in a aggressive league.
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