Why should we care about Louisville City FC, a third tier professional team?
Some are still skeptical on cheering for a tier 3 team in Louisville when it’s not in Major League Soccer. Is it because the USL, in US Soccer’s third division, is a pushover league? Is it because it’s like the NBA D-League? No, and let me explain.
The teams in the USL, or any other league, represent the city they reside in. Louisville City represents Louisville. Here in the Derby City we have tried many times to attract professional sports, and all efforts since the Kentucky Colonels in the 1970’s have failed. Anyone remember the failed arena football teams the hockey teams? Neither sport really defines or resonates our city at large. The Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats are so successful because we love college sports, and they belong to us.
The city of Louisville has always been a sports town, but baseball, basketball, and now soccer are truly our towns great sports. Arena football and hockey aren’t our culture. Baseball was brought to this city by the Louisville Bats, and the Redbirds before them. Louisville actually hosted several other pro baseball teams in the past, including the Grays, the Colonels and the Eclipse (look them up, it’s cool). Basketball has always been brought by the colleges in the area, including Bellarmine, Louisville and even Kentucky. I am from the Hoosier State and we are only known for Basketball when you got outside of the state. Many people don’t know that soccer is extremely successful in this area. Indiana, Louisville, and Kentucky have had many players go to the MLS and NASL and even in the USL.
But, getting back to the point, why should you care about Louisville City FC? First, City had the second highest attendance of any of the USL teams besides Sacramento. That in itself is a victory for a city who, besides the Bats have failed to field any professional teams with staying power in recent memory. Second, in our first successful season we finished 2nd overall in points in the league. We fought three rounds in the U.S. Open Cup, only losing on a very late goal in extra time on the road to MLS’s Chicago Fire. We made it to the Eastern Conference Finals and lost to the eventual champions.. This tier 3 team could easily give many MLS teams a hard time. Some, nonetheless, might still consider a tier 3 team as made up of “losers” and “failed MLS players.” I would disagree. Sometimes the desire to play the game outweighs the desire for celebrity. Many news articles have been published suggest the most successful pro teams in Louisville would be soccer teams. Louisville have even brought in a stadium consultant for a soccer specific stadium. Also, many of the tier 3 teams are academy prospects and players hoping to make their careers on a bigger stage. Having said that that doesn’t mean they fail as a player, it means they are improving their game.
The tier 3 is the lowest of the leagues, but at least it’s still pro soccer. It’s not like the Conference in English soccer.Ever heard of Burton Albion? Probably not, unless you’re a religious soccer fanatic, which is okay to because we are all there with you. So the teams in tier 3 are at least a bit more known here in the States than tier 4 of the English league. Players will play where they can get contracts, and some even develop a cult following like Matt Fondy for Chicago and Louisville. Obviously Louisville City FC is not Barcelona or Real Madrid, but the team itself has brought something to this city that we haven’t seen before.
Finally, and most importantly, Louisville City is about community. Soccer fans are their own batch of people. A whole separate species if you will. We love our teams and scorn those who disagree with our views on our team. We are so passionate that we develop groups to follow the team around like the Manchester United bus scene in Euro Trip. Take the Coopers for example, named after the history of the City. The Louisville City Logo is a representation of the city and its history. You can’t get that in every city who has a team. How many parents can say they sent their child to train with the pros? Many of us can say we played in college or high school or against college players, but not many of can say we trained with professional players, no matter the sport. Louisville City held a camp in the community, which was the first I had ever heard of. You don’t see the Louisville Bats putting on a baseball clinic anytime soon.
What sorcery is this? You can request appearances by players? Try getting that anywhere else and the players actually show up. No team brings a community together quite like soccer. Take the Munich Air Disaster in 1958, Manchester United was left with hardly any ounce of a team and the community came together and some local clubs and fitted a team that made it to the FA Cup final that year. I guarantee that the great city of Louisville would do that for any college or sports team in our area in a heartbeat.
Community is what a team brings to the city. It’s human nature to desire community. So don’t hold yourself back because you want an MLS team here in Louisville, you need to support City now. It brings you closer to people of a similar passion, and allows you to cheer for a common goal. Community brings you and 10,000 of your closest friends together to scream and even get mad at times, all for the fun of the greatest sport in history, soccer.