LANCASTER, Calif. and TAMPA, Fla. – The City of Lancaster, California, the United Soccer League and USL Antelope Valley today announced the intent to bring men's professional and women's pre-professional soccer to the Antelope Valley. The teams will play in the Lancaster Municipal Stadium, which will be converted from its minor league baseball configuration to a 5,300-seat, soccer-specific stadium through a unique, public-private partnership.
USL Antelope Valley is led by its Founder and President, John Smelzer. Smelzer is a sports industry veteran, having held legal and commercial roles with World Cup USA 1994, the NFL, NBC Olympics, and FOX Sports. Through his passion for the sport, Smelzer has brought together an impressive group of local stakeholders and supporters who share his love of soccer and community.
"Over the past several months, we've spent hundreds of hours in the community meeting face-to-face with our supporters – fans, players, coaches, parents, teachers and community leaders of all types," USL Antelope Valley Founder and President John Smelzer said. "This is a diverse community, both demographically and geographically. We are united by our love of the game and our shared commitment to creating opportunity for our kids and civic pride for our community. We are One Valley. We will be One Club."
The Antelope Valley region is located in north Los Angeles County, anchored by the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale. Combined with the surrounding municipalities, the Antelope Valley has a diverse and growing population of more than 500,000. Already a leader in the aerospace industry, the AV hosts a burgeoning green tech industry and is the future home of the Mojave Inland Port and high-speed rail lines connecting to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Poised for growth, the AV is an untapped soccer hotbed of both players and fans alike.
"The Antelope Valley is hiding in plain sight in north Los Angeles County," USL Deputy CEO & Chief Real Estate Office Justin Papadakis said. "With a population that rivals more well-known metros, this deserving community has thousands of young people playing soccer and thousands more passionately supporting the game at all levels. What they lack is a professional club of their own. We look forward to seeing Antelope Valley in the USL family and resonating with the community."
The club will offer affordable ticket plans as well as new club seats and existing suites. Lancaster Municipal Stadium will feature a traditional, standing-only "supporters' section" behind the north goal, the future home of the club's most fervent fans, "The 661." The renovations to convert Lancaster Municipal Stadium into a soccer-specific venue is expected to be completed in 2025.
"Lancaster Municipal Stadium, affectionately known as 'The Hangar,' has long been a beacon of pride for our community," Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said. "Over the years, we've not only preserved its legacy but enhanced it. Now, as it gears up to host both professional and pre-professional soccer, along with diverse community events and concerts, it promises to be a hub of excitement and opportunity. It’s not just a stadium – it's where the dreams of our young talents meet reality, especially with USL Antelope Valley championing their aspirations."
In the coming months, USL Antelope Valley will be hosting listening sessions with its growing group of supporters, hearing firsthand what the community wants and expects from the club - from values to branding to community service - and everything in between. The club plans to unveil its official name, colors, and crest in March 2024 and aims to kick off in 2025.
To stay updated with the team's progress, announcements, and season ticket information, sign up at www.uslantelopevalley.com and follow @USL_AV on Twitter (X), and @USLAntelopeValley on Instagram, and Facebook.