Sunday, November 8, 2009

Detroit to Get USL-1 Franchise

Last Wednesday, the United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) announced their future plans from their annual meeting at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. For a few weeks, we have heard about divisions between franchises in USL-1, with some teams not happy at the league’s recent takeover by NuRock Holdings. Those teams—Miami FC, the Minnesota Thunder, and the Carolina RailHawks—announced their intention to form their own association, the Team Owners Association (TOA), and start their own league to compete with USL-1. They have received support from other USL teams, like the Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, and the 2010 expansion Tampa Bay Rowdies, among others. Well, the USL came with their trump move, holding meetings with 9 teams that will either be in the league next year or in 2011 (Charleston is a part of that group, but were not present at the meeting). Current teams from Austin, Cleveland, New York (expansion team), Puerto Rico, Portland and Rochester were at the meeting. Tampa Bay also had representatives at the meeting, which serves as a huge blow to the TOA. Finally, USL-1 announced its new expansion teams, which certainly turned some heads: Edmonton, Ottawa, Baltimore and Detroit.

The news of a new expansion USL-1 team in Detroit has come as unexpected great news for the great and still-growing soccer community in Michigan. The largest market in the United States without a 1st or 2nd division soccer team (some say the largest in the world) finally will have a team enter the USL-1 ranks in either 2010 or, more likely, 2011. It has certainly been a wild few days since the meeting, with people speculating on where the new Detroit franchise will play, any partnerships they will have, and whether the Michigan Bucks, the PDL team owned by Dan Duggan (who will own the new USL-1 franchise) will be making the move up to USL-1 or whether it will be a completely new team.

While this news had been building for some time since Dan Duggan’s interview on Major League Soccer Talk back in April when he shared his desire to take the Bucks up to USL-1 in 2010 or 2011, this news was certainly a pleasant surprise to Motor City Supporters everywhere. The main question is whether it will indeed be the Bucks making the move or if Duggan will be announcing a partnership with a European team that will serve as the basis of the USL-1 team’s name and brand. That news seems to be coming sooner rather than later. Also, the question of where they will play is also up in the air. Duggan has land next to the Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, the current indoor home of the Bucks. He has plans to ultimately build a 7,000 seat stadium right next to the USA that could be expandable in the future should he try to move the team up to MLS. That stadium, unless the plans are already in motion, certainly will not be completed by 2011, which means the team would have to find a caretaker site to play for their first season.

Having a Detroit team in USL will certainly help their exposure by being in such a big market. Along with the Baltimore franchise, rumored to be Crystal Palace USA moving up from USL-2 to the First Division, and the new New York franchise, USL is certainly going after some big media markets. There will be an instant rival for Detroit with the Cleveland City Stars and Montreal (if they return to USL-1), and annual “friendlies” with the Columbus Crew, Chicago Fire and Toronto FC of MLS will certainly bring out the fans for both traditional sports rival cities.

It is certainly exciting times for Detroit soccer fans, and the Motor City Supporters are looking forward to an offseason that will be full of more information about Detroit’s newest team. It’s a great move by USL, one that will eventually pay off in the restructuring of America’s 2nd-tier soccer league.

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