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Getting to know the Eastern Conference in USL Pro

by Taylor Sorrels @AbGatorade

While we wait with bated breath for the 2015 USL Pro schedule to issue, let’s take a very brief, surface-only look at who Louisville City will play at least twice in its inaugural season. Like I said, this is really cover-of-the-book stuff. You want to go in depth, well, I guess there’s Wikipedia which, incidentally, is where I got most of my info:

Charleston Battery:

Colors:Black & yellow (black & yellow, black & yellow, black & yellow, I’m sure their fans sing)

2014 Finish: 5th

MLS Affiliate: Houston Dynamo

One of the oldest and longest-operating professional clubs in USL Pro, having been founded in 1993. They play at Blackbaud Stadium, one of the first soccer-specific stadia ever built in America, and have called it home since 1999. The Battery have won four league championships since their inception, and famously made it to the finals of the 2008 U.S. Open Cup. Their chief supporters group is called The Regiment.

Charlotte Independence:

Colors: Red, white, and blue, suprisingly

2014 Finish: N/A

MLS Affilate: Colorado Rapids

Charlotte Independence are an expansion team for 2015, taking over the market from Charlotte Eagles, who have dropped down a division to USL PDL. The Eagles actually made the 2013 USL Pro Championship final. Adding to the revolutionary flair, the team will play home matches at American Legion Memorial Stadium.

Why the Independence? Why, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, a thing everyone knows about. Duh.

FC Montreal:

Colors: Blue, black and white

2014 Finish: N/A

Another expansion team, and the first one on the list to be wholly owned and operated by an MLS club, Montreal Impact FC. At least they didn’t go the lazy route and call it “Montreal Impact 2,” I guess. The Impact are notorious for trying to be Canada’s favorite Serie A team, but this point, they don’t have a roster, and their head coach is French, or at least Quebecois. I have a feeling all that will work out once this whole MLS/MLSPU CBA thing blows over. They’ll play home matches at Saputo Stadium.

Harrisburg City Islanders

Colors: “tropical blue, navy blue, and white”, per their Wiki. Remember the Tropical blue.

2014 Finish: 8th, USL Pro Championship Runners Up

MLS Affilate: Philadelphia Union

Harrisburg City Islanders is both a mouthful and a seeming oxymoron until one finds out that City Island is a real place in the administrative playground of Pennsylvania. Last year marked the Isles’ 10th anniversary, and they kind of mucked it up during the regular season before getting superhot in the playoffs, making it all the way to the league finals. The club has been affiliated with Philadelphia Union since 2010, so take from that what you will. Their supporters groups are called the City Island Hecklers, which I LOVE, and the Sons of the Susquehanna. The Isles play their home matches at Skyline Sports Complex on the City Island, of all places, so their nickname is super appropriate.

New York Red Bulls (presumably “2”)

Colors: Red and white, probably

2014 Finish: N/A, which may be a sign of things to come

The newest and hopefully last addition to USL Pro’s 2015 contingent, the USL ProBulls, as I call them, were only just announced as an entity like, last week. Their parent club has a famously good academy setup which they until recently squandered at the senior level for a variety of reasons tied to an ever rotating front office staff. I presume they’ll play at Red Bull Arena, which is nice. Whether they’ll have any supporters groups remains to be seen, just like their roster and head coach. Yay!

Pittsburgh Riverhounds

Colors: Black, blue and white

2014 Finish: 11th

MLS Affiliate: none

Pittsburgh Riverhounds was founded in 1999 and play at their own stadium, Highmark Stadium. They, like so many other new clubs, have the stated goal of joining MLS in the next ten years, though that probably got slightly derailed when they filed for bankruptcy last year (the reorganizing kind, not the going out of business kind). The question you’re probably asking now is: what’s a river hound, and what’s that got to do with Pittsburgh? I have no idea. The hounds supporters group is called the Steel Army, which I’ll admit is pretty cool.

Richmond Kickers

Colors: Red and white

2014 Finish: 4th

MLS Affiliate: DC United

Another one of the older clubs in the league, the Kickers were founded in 1993 and have bounced around leagues since their inception, though they’ve been in USL Pro since it began. The Kickers play at City Stadium in Richmond, which seats up to 22,000. Their supporters group is called the River City Red Army, which tells me there’s a river in Richmond that I did not previously know about. One of the unique things about the Kickers in the context of the league is they’ve had the same head coach since 2000, Leigh Cowlishaw. Richmond won the 1995 U.S. Open Cup, and have won one league title back in 2001.

Rochester Rhinos

Colors: Green, yellow, black and white

2014 Finish: 6th

MLS Affiilate: New England Revolution

Rochester is another of the “old guard” in lower division US soccer, having been founded in 1996. They play at Sahlen’s Stadium, which is also club-owned. The Rhinos have had great success in the past, winning the 1999 U.S. Open Cup, and winning league titles three times. Their supporters group is the Oak Street Brigade.

St. Louis FC

Colors: Blue and green and puke

2014 Finish: like their 2015 finish, N/A

MLS Affiliate: Chicago Fire, which I’m sure will go great for them since St. Louis and Chicago are known for their ability to get along and love each other

St. Louis is another expansion team for 2015 who decided it’d be cool to co-opt the Fleur de Lis from its rightful holder, Louisville City FC. Things you might not have known about St. Louis:

  • It sucks.
  • The city’s namesake, St. Louis, was actually King Louis IX, who really liked the Catholic Church and crusades, but also really hated fun stuff like gambling and drinking and fornicating, which is a little ironic given that he was French and a king.
  • William Clark, St. Louis’s most famous resident outside of Nelly and the Perjurist Mark McGuire, was the kid brother of founder of Louisville’s George Rogers Clark, and probably got his ass kicked a lot, prompting him to run all the way to the Pacific Ocean with a guy named Meriwether to evade the great General GRC.
  • St. Louis is somehow synonymous with American soccer history, despite the fact they’ve never been able to field a professional team for more than a year at a time since the turn of the century.

Needless to say, they’re the worst. Their supporters group, which is made up mostly of miscreants and driftwood washed up from the river, is called the St. Lunatics. I mean St. Louligans. It’s not that important. They’re gonna play home games in a dirty alley on a sunken barge at St. Louis Soccer Park. Also, apparently the club has five core values: Unity, Humility, Passion, Respect, and Tradition. Cute, but really they’re probably Avarice, Sucking at Soccer, Making Crappy Beer and Foisting it on the General Populace, Forwarding Emails from Nigerian Princes, and General Shiftiness.

Toronto FC II

Colors: Red and black

2014 Finish: n/a

ToronTwo, as Martin French likes to call them, is a new MLS-owned club likely playing its matches at BMO Field. We can expect their roster to include Andrea Pirlo, Joe Gyau, and Gedion Zelalem if their personnel decisions resemble anything like their parent club’s. I doubt they have a supporters group at this point, and we can expect them to miss the playoffs this fall.

Wilmington Hammerheads FC

Colors: Navy blue, Carolina blue and white

2014 Finish: 7th

MLS Affiliate: New York City FC

Another of the old guard in American soccer, Wilmington Hammerheads FC was founded in 1996 and play home matches at 6,000 seat Legion Stadium. As they recently announced their partnership with NYCFC, we can expect them to rebrand shortly as Wilmington City FC/Manchester City D. I’m sure the color scheme had more than a little something to do with the affiliation agreement. The Hammerheads have won one league title in their existence and have had some success in the US Open Cup, defeating the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) in 2003 before losing to DC United in the quarterfinals. Their supporters group is called the Port City Firm. I know Wilmington is known for fishing and oysters and being a port, but until now I had no idea you could find hammerhead sharks there. Coolio.