BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The ripple of the drum at the back of the Good People Brewing Company served as the background to the arrival of the USL to Birmingham, Alabama on Tuesday evening, providing punctuation to the speakers and symbolizing the roots of the first USL expansion club for the 2019 season.
Alongside Birmingham Mayor William Bell and USL President Jake Edwards at the other end of the room were trio of local businessmen that took that impetus, and brought it to professional reality. Jeff Logan, co-owner of the Birmingham Barons baseball team, James Outland, founding and managing partner of New Capital Partners, and Lee Styslinger, III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec, Inc. were cognizant of the company they kept.
“Their vision to bring professional soccer to Birmingham started out with a couple of guys in a bar having beers, which is how a lot of good things start,” said Outland. “It’s led to this moment, and their passion and their vision and their drive and desire, hopefully coupled with some of our resources and business experience will bring the best team to the league for Birmingham.”
The passion for the sport shown by groups like the Magic City Brigade, and additionally through major contests in the city featuring both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams was what put Birmingham on the map as a potential expansion club for the USL.
“Birmingham is a market we’ve had our eye on for a long time,” said Edwards. “I’d like to recognize Morgan Copes, and all of his folks that were behind launching the Birmingham Hammers, a fantastic club here. I’d like to recognize our friends here in the Magic City Brigade, I think some of which are in the back here, thanks for everything you do to grow the game in this city. The fans really are the lifeblood of our league, and we’re really happy to have you guys singing from the terraces soon enough.”
Edwards also paid tribute to the work put in by Logan, Outland and Styslinger to make the club’s professional future a reality.
“James, Lee, Jeff are successful businessmen, prominent men in their own right in this community, and passionate sports fans, proud members of Birmingham,” said Edwards. “These guys worked tirelessly to make this place a better place to live, work and play for everybody in this community.
“They believe in the future of the Magic City, they believe in our sport’s ability to unite communities, and they believe in the USL and the impact we can have here. For that, we will be eternally grateful, and we look forward to working with these gentlemen in the important months ahead, and years ahead, and we welcome them and all of you into our USL family.”
Copes, who in addition to being a founder of the Hammers was also the club’s President, was also introduced as the new USL club’s first Vice President, continuing the line that goes back to the conception of a professional soccer club in the Magic City. With a PDL team set to take the field next spring, the work for the club begins now as it looks to build a club its passionate support will be proud of.
“We’d like to win, but we want to also have a great product on the field,” said Outland. “Not just a competitive product, but a product that you can be proud of. We’re avid supporters of Birmingham, we’re avid sportsman, we love soccer, but we love Birmingham more, and that’s what brings us here today.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the growth in the league, and the growth in soccer. Alabama has led youth soccer growth across the country, which is amazing, and we also want to thank the Magic City Brigade for not only their support, but for the drum. This wouldn’t be the same without it.”