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2017 USL Preview - Enhanced Experiences

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/22/17, 6:31PM EDT


Stadium openings in Rio Grande Valley, Phoenix this week advance the league’s vision

Photo courtesy Rio Grande Valley FC

Over the past three years, the USL’s soccer-specific stadium initiative has been arguably the most important the league has undertaken alongside the establishment of USL Productions.

When it is officially unveiled on Wednesday night, as Rio Grande Valley FC plays host to Liga MX’s C.F. Monterrey in an international exhibition, H-E-B Park will mark the latest milestone in the USL’s ongoing progress in creating great environments for its fans to enjoy the sport, and for its players to compete.

“Just seeing the pitch and the video board and the seats – it’s a beautiful project, and we're just happy that the community is able to enjoy it,” Toros President Bert Garcia said of the 9,700-seat stadium. “There’s a lot of little neat pieces to this project, pieces that no one else in our league is going to have.”

Three days later, Phoenix Rising FC will unveil its new stadium in a prime new location, giving the club the ideal setting as it relaunches its brand with the likes of former Mexico and Chivas de Guadalajara striker Omar Bravo and former England international Shaun Wright-Phillips. The Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex has brought a buzz to the local supporters – a sellout is anticipated for Saturday’s home opener against Toronto FC II – and will give the club a top-class setting as it enters its new era.

Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC

The two venues arriving this week will be joined by others in the near future, with the Charlotte Independence set to move to the newly-opened Matthews Sportsplex for the final 12 games of their regular season, and Orange County SC set to mark its arrival at the Orange County Great Park this season.

New arrivals to the league Ottawa Fury FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies also bring with them outstanding venues, with TD Place in Ottawa and Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. set to quickly become favorites for visiting fans as the clubs compete in the USL.

More is on the way, with the Richmond Kickers securing a 40-year lease this offseason for their longtime home, City Stadium, that will allow the club to invent $20 million into upgrades that will make one of the USL’s historic venues an even greater place to visit on game day. Louisville City FC’s plans for a soccer-specific home have also made big strides, with the Louisville Coopers leading the club’s outstanding support during its first two seasons.

As established venues such as the Charleston Battery’s MUSC Health Stadium – the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States – the Rochester Rhinos’ Capelli Sport Stadium and the Pittsburgh Riverhounds’ Highmark Stadium have been joined by top-class venues in cities like San Antonio, Sacramento, Colorado Springs, Oklahoma City, Saint Louis FC and Cincinnati, the USL’s vision for delivering a superb game day experience to fans continues its strong upward progress.

As the USL drives toward its goal of becoming one of the most respected Division II leagues in the world, the continued addition of soccer-specific stadiums is at the forefront of where the league expects to be in 2020, and beyond. 

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