By Taylor P. Sorrels:
Chances are high that unless you a) work for Louisville City FC or b) are one of the board members for the Coopers, you had no idea that USL Pro held their annual general meeting in Clearwater, Florida last weekend. But now you do! And, hoo boy, are there a lot of changes afoot.
USL Pro as a league is no stranger to flux as teams have been added and subtracted just about every season since its birth in its present iteration in 2011*. However, thanks to an organic increase in interest in soccer in the US which exploded thanks to this year’s FIFA World Cup in almost our own time zone, the league will expand with ten (10!) new teams for its 2015 season. In the past, the league hovered somewhere between 10 and 14 teams, and as a result, most teams played something resembling a single-table, round robin schedule. However, with all of the new teams, and the league acutely aware of the fact that travel costs are one of the biggest problems plaguing the profit/loss statements of its member clubs, the 2015 will feature a two-table schedule with two twelve-team conferences, per USL Pro blog Reckless Challenge.
What’s that mean for Louisville City FC? Well, for one thing, it means more amenable road trips. The 28 game schedule will feature 14 home games and 14 away games. As there are only 12 teams in LCFC’s would-be Eastern Conference, per the Reckless Challenge article that means home and aways for 22 games, with six additional games. Those remaining six are divided between three additional games in-conference, and three games against teams out west. While traditionalists probably aren’t going to like that idea, from a cost and time/scheduling standpoint, it’s a pretty good deal. Tim Holt has said in the past that his vision for the league is for it to contain four conferences, each with at least ten teams, so this is a step in that direction.
Another development broken by Reckless Challenge deals with USL Pro’s apparent declaration and/or desire to become a second division league per FIFA and USSF standards. That’s a big change, and probably a big challenge, and muddies a lot of the waters between the three professional soccer leagues under the USSF umbrella at the moment. For starters, NASL is a Division 2 league, and most of its teams left USL Pro for what they probably think are very good reasons. For that league and its own independent ambitions to possibly have to compete with an MLS-backed USL Pro is bound to ruffle some feathers.
What’s more important is what that change in division status means for Louisville City FC. FIFA and USSF standards have stadium, population, and facilities requirements that LCFC meets in all but one regard: we don’t play in a soccer specific stadium. Chairman Wayne Estopinal has not been silent on that issue, however, having said publicly at least once that he hopes for plans for a SSS in three seasons.
These are all interesting developments as we roll forward toward the start of the 2015 season. Keep up here for more as it comes in!
*USL as a professional soccer enterprise has existed in some form or fashion since 1986