skip navigation

The USL Q&A – Alan Ledford, El Paso USL

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/04/18, 10:00AM EST


MountainStar Sports Group’s President on El Paso’s growth, and USL’s arrival

Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso USL

As the President of MountainStar Sports Group, Alan Ledford brings a remarkable resume from a career that has seen him find success at all levels of professional baseball. The 2006 Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year while he was with the Sacramento River Cats, Ledford has led the charge for the El Paso Chihuahuas since the club debuted in 2014 and is now set to do the same for the organization’s new USL club, unveiled this past Wednesday.

Prior to the official introduction of El Paso USL, we sat down with Ledford to discuss why the time was right for professional soccer in the Borderland, his brief stint with the Portland Timbers during the club’s USL era, and what MSSG has learned from its ownership in Ascenso MX’s FC Juarez.

Q: What does today’s announcement of El Paso as the newest city to welcome the USL mean to you, and the MountainStar Sports Group as a whole?

Alan Ledford: It’s a big day for this community. It’s an opportunity to bring a level of professional soccer to El Paso that has never existed before. It’s also an opportunity to continue our ownership group’s efforts to promote economic development in this region and to improve the quality of life by bringing high-level professional sports experiences here.

Q: What were the key factors that led to the decision to add a professional soccer team to the organizations MountainStar Sports Group already operates in the city?

AL: There’s two things. One is the popularity of soccer, obviously worldwide, and the increasing popularity nationally in the U.S., and then secondly, this market is perfectly situated. We have an average median age which is well below the national average, and this market is 80-to-85 percent Hispanic with a tradition of following soccer and a real affinity for the sport. We think the combination made the timing perfect.

Q: The club’s location, as you’ve mentioned, is a really interesting one, and MountainStar Sports also has an interest in FC Juarez just over the other side of the border. Is the goal that the two clubs are going to be able to work together in the future?

AL: Absolutely, in fact we’ve already has some very preliminary conversations about that possibility. As time goes by and we develop our team here on the El Paso side, those discussions will certainly continue, and ideas will percolate, and I think the end result will be a higher-quality product on the field for both teams.

Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso USL

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt in owning FC Juarez and seeing how soccer works as a business?

AL: As someone who’s spent most of my career working in professional baseball, where you play 80-plus home games on the major league side, 70-plus home games on the minor league side each year, each of those games is important, but in soccer, each game is an event. We see that in the excitement that FC Juarez fans have, and we certainly expect that here with our El Paso team to be equally exciting, and for people to look at it as a big event, to where they plan for it. Seventeen times a year we’re going to play regular-season home games, and that’s going to be a big deal each time.

Q: We’ve been here a couple of days, we see a city that certainly still seems to be developing and growing, what’s it like to be part of the El Paso community at this point of its history?

AL: It’s a really cool thing, a really important thing to play some small part as an organization in the renaissance of this community. Sports are an important part of a city, an important part of a downtown, an important part of growing up and living in a community, and there is no community that embraces its sports teams to a greater extent than El Paso does. We’ve experienced that on the baseball side and we certainly expect that to happen on the soccer side. It’s going to move the needle for El Paso locally, but even on a regional and a national scale, it helps make this community more prominent.

Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso USL

Q: You mentioned your background has primarily been in baseball, but there’s also a little bit of soccer there as well. What is it like having seen what the USL and the Portland Timbers were, from your involvement with that club, to seeing what the USL is now?

AL: It’s clearly a different era. When I was involved with the Timbers and Portland, they were going through a very challenging time at that point, and that’s when we got involved to help change that situation. Fortunately, we were able to do that, and now Merritt Paulson and his organization have done an incredible job in building the Timbers into the juggernaut that they are, and then of course their women’s professional team, the Thorns, have been remarkable.

The USL, you can’t even compare it from where it was to where it is today. The communities that the league represents, the quality of soccer, the professionalism throughout of the teams and certainly at the league level, it’s a whole different world and we’re excited to be part of it.

Q: What does the roadmap for the club look like now, we’ve got about 12, 13 months until you take the field, and how does it feel to be on the precipice of that starting point?

AL: Daunting, but also a lot of fun. Our strategy is to go down parallel tracks. We have the business side; we need to create an environment, we need to sell tickets, we need to make it a prosperous operation, we need to do everything we can to sell out the venue. Simultaneously, we’re building a soccer organization and finding the right people who buy into our philosophy, our ownership’s approach is going to be paramount, and that starts with a General Manager on the soccer side as well as obviously the Head Coach.

We’re excited to be looking for those people, and we’ll be even more excited when we identify them and get them here on the ground and start to work toward creating a roster and making this real and tangible.

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos