August 11 –United Soccer League, the second tier of US professional football, has announced two new clubs in Birmingham, Alabama, and Austin, Texas, who will being playing in the 2019 season.
Their addition will take the league to 34 teams. The league, currently at 30 teams playing in East and West conferences, has expansion teams in Fresno and Nashville joining for the 2018 season.
The addition of two more teams in 2019 will likely push the league close to its aim of adding a third Central conference to its structure.
USL CEO Alec Papadakis said: “With the increasing popularity and demand for professional soccer across the country, more and more fans recognise the high level of competition and excitement of the USL. We continue toward our goal of becoming one of the top Division II leagues in the world, on par with the English Championship, Liga Adelante and 2. Bundesliga. We will achieve that goal by continuing to deliver a first-class soccer experience for fans, players and communities.”
Birmingham club owners consist of Jeff Logan, co-owner of the Birmingham Barons baseball team; James Outland, founding and managing partner of New Capital Partners; and Lee Styslinger, III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec, Inc. They have teamed up with local club Birmingham Hammers, who play in the U23 PDL (a USL league) to drive local support and provide the foundation for the new franchise.
While the new Birmingham franchise is looking for a downtown location to play matches, the new Austin team has no such concerns with chairman Bobby Epstenin bringing the club to the Circuit of The Americas events complex (pictured) where a new soccer-specific venue will be built.
Austin is returning to the USL having previously played in 2015 when it was flooded out of its home venue. Since then Epstein has bought into the ownership group bringing with him his Circuit of Americas venue that hosts Formula 1 racing amongst other major sports events and concerts.
The venue is opening an FC Barcelona training academy this summer.
“We have worked diligently with Austin’s ownership group to secure a permanent home for a USL club, and are pleased to have arrived at a great solution that will ensure the long-term success of the franchise,” USL President Jake Edwards added. “The Circuit of The Americas is an outstanding venue that has been home to world-class events for a number of years. We’re excited to work with a Bobby and his strong local ownership group as the USL returns to Austin for the 2019 season.”
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