USL News Release
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
TAMPA, Fla. – Over a four-day period concluding Sunday in downtown Tampa, Florida, USL PRO owners, executives, administrators, and coaches convened to discuss strategy, policy, competition structure, and other league issues.
The league’s Annual General Meeting, held in conjunction with USL SoccerFest, represented the third time in as many months that key leaders from USL and all its professional teams met as a group to prepare for the debut of USL PRO, the highest level of professional soccer in the USL system. More than a dozen teams have already been announced including marquee franchises such as the Rochester Rhinos, Charleston Battery, Richmond Kickers, and Orlando City SC (formerly Austin Aztex). The 2011 season will feature 16 teams and a 24-game regular season schedule with league alignment, schedule, and other details to be announced in December.
Designed to help ensure the long-term stability of professional soccer in North America by offering an economically-viable business model for team owners in both mid-sized and large markets, USL PRO is a national league with a national profile featuring a regional competition model. Focused on franchise stability and longevity, USL PRO will feature seven different teams with more than a decade each of professional soccer experience in 2011, and more than 100 seasons of combined professional league experience in its ranks.
“The positive marketplace response since we officially introduced USL PRO has been overwhelming.” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “With the support and guidance of our team owners, it is clear that we have developed a model for professional soccer below and in support of Major League Soccer that is resonating with current and prospective team owners in all geographic regions. Our meetings this weekend regarding how we execute behind this model were extremely positive and productive. It is refreshing to work with a group of professional soccer team owners and executives entirely committed to the collective success of USL PRO and focused solely upon the current and future health of the league in which they are participating.”
With a high level of expansion franchise interest including several groups who attended the event, USL PRO is focused on achieving measured growth and expanding into a 20- to 24-team league for the 2012 season. Expansion interest has been particularly positive in the western and central United States, especially the mid-south, where advanced discussions are ongoing with groups in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. The highest profile of these groups is the internationally-respected Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E). SS&E runs four professional sports franchises – the NBA’s Spurs, the Silver Stars of the WNBA, the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage and the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League - while also managing the day-to-day operations of the AT&T Center. SS&E has focused significant time and energy during the past two years exploring the establishment of a USL professional league soccer franchise in San Antonio and possess rights to field a USL PRO team for the 2012 season.
“SS&E is one of the premier sports and entertainment companies in the world.” USL President Tim Holt said. “They have achieved success in all of their professional sporting ventures and understand that a reliable, stable, and sustainable league is necessary for teams to attain their objectives. We are confident that they can play a leading role in the future development of USL PRO and our continued efforts to make it the strongest, most competitive, and best operated league in the United States below MLS.”
Further, in support of USL PRO and its teams, long-time USL corporate partner UMBRO announced it will be providing a comprehensive team kit and apparel package to all USL PRO members, and will be actively supporting all USL PRO initiatives including the Championship, All-Star Game, Men’s Player Combine, and other special events. As a result, the majority of USL PRO teams will feature UMBRO’s double diamond logo and be associated with the brand that has built a strong reputation as supplier to the world’s best soccer teams and the leading grassroots sponsor of the game in the United States.