The first kick of the 2018 USL season is still a couple months away. We don’t really know what clubs are in the league for the upcoming season. Orlando B is the Schrodinger’s Cat of USL teams right now. We don’t even have a schedule yet. BUT! This website has been content-free for long enough, so we/I are/am going to take a look at the new crop of teams that are definitely, for sure going to be playing USL soccer in 2018. We’ll start with:
This bunch is only going to be around for two seasons until they move on to MLS and try to poison the USL well with a “2” team. That said, we might as well learn enough about them so we know at whom to direct our scorn and derision.
NSC will play their home matches on *gasp* a baseball diamond called First Tennessee Park, home to the Nashville Sounds. The Sounds are a Triple A affiliate for the Oakland A’s in the Pacific Coast League, despite being literally thousands of miles away from said coast. UofL’s in the ACC, so obviously we gave up on names that make sense a long time ago. Also, I bet it just galls fans of certain MLS hopeful USL clubs that a team that plays in a triple-A baseball stadium got into MLS first.
NSC has actually been around for a bit, having played in the NPSL as Nashville FC, which is totally different, since 2014. Nashville FC was a supporter-owned club until some rich guys bought it for next to nothing, turned that F into an S, and put a team in the USL-PDL in 2017. The team has had varying degrees of success in each of its iterations, never winning any hardware, but meh soccer is better than no soccer at all. Just ask Riverhounds fans.
NSC will be led by manager Gary Smith. Smith’s claim to fame is somehow winning MLS Cup with the Colorado Rapids back in 2010. Smith is English and speaks with an English accent, so you know he knows everything about soccer, er football already. His last coaching stint was at Atlanta Silverbacks in the NASL before they folded at the end of 2015. He hasn’t coached anywhere since.
Nashville has managed to put together a competent-looking roster so far, anchored by a couple of good goalkeepers in C.J. Cochran and Matt “Easy” Pickens, and some guys with good USL experience in Tucker Hume (Ottawa Fury), Lebo Moloto (Swope Park), Michael Cox (Orlando B) and Taylor Washington (Pittsburgh Riverhounds).
It’s difficult to determine expectations for most teams in the USL thanks to annual roster turnover and short term player contracts, much less a USL team built from scratch. That said, so far this looks like it’ll be a decent group that could probably make the playoffs in their first season, unlike St. Louis, ever.
North Carolina FC
Formerly the Railhawks, a species of bird that has never existed, NCFC did the trendy thing and dropped the official nickname before the beginning of last season in NASL and went the much blander route of just being North Carolina FC. Sure, stones in glass houses, but bland is bland. I’ll be calling them the Failhawks until something more appropriate comes up.
NCFC is actually returning to the USL after a seven year walkabout in the NASL. They were one of the clubs that split away from the old USL First Division back in 2009, and the last of those to have still been active in the NASL before departing at the end of the 2017 fall season. The Hawks only reached the playoffs twice in their NASL history, though they did win the league’s inaugural Spring Season back in 2011.
Because USL clubs have to sign players to contracts with USL-related provisions in them, NCFC lost a good chunk of its old NASL roster at the end of last season. Returning players include longtime midfielder Austin Da Luz and goalkeeper George Marks. New signings of note are [null set]. There are a lot of open roster spots on this team that remain to be filled, is what I’m trying to say.
Northern Irishman Colin Clarke will lead the club for his seventh season. He did an okay job in NASL, but it’ll be interesting to see what he does with more competition to play against this coming season.
NCFC plays their home games at WakeMed Park in Cary, which is actually a really nice place to play soccer. Good job, Failhawks!
They don’t have a logo, a coach, or a roster. They, too, will be playing in a stadium built for baseball. THE HORROR. Let’s ignore ATL Deuce for now and move on.
Las Vegas Lights FC
LOVE THE CREST. One of the earliest and busiest members of the Coopers, and the person who started this website, Jon Fish, was involved in getting LVLFC off the ground, so we’re real happy for him. That said, there is very little chance LouCity ever plays these guys, so we won’t spend forever learning about them.
They’ll play in a baseball stadium near downtown Las Vegas, Cashman Field. They’ll be managed by the enigmatic but also energetic Jose Luis “El Chelis” Sanchez Sola, who might not win them a ton of games but will at least be fun to watch.
Well, once they sign a player, anyway. They haven’t done that yet.
Another team we’ll probably never see. They’ll play home matches at, wait for it, A BASEBALL STADIUM, Chukchansi Park, with fabulous views of the local Social Security office. Their inaugural manager is a guy named Adam Smith. Bill Jones wasn’t available, for some reason. I follow this league a bit and don’t recognize a single player on the roster. They’ve nicknamed themselves the Foxes but neglected to put any reference to it on their badge. Whatever.
Could there be more?
Maybe! Though I doubt it. We’ll find out. Yay!