USL PRO Goes Coastal with New LA Franchise

FULLERTON, CA - JULY 20:  A detailed view of the MLS/SuperLiga ball in play during the SuperLiga match between CD Chivas USA and the New England Revolution at Titan Stadium on July 20, 2008 in Fullerton, California. The Revolution and Chivas USA played to a 1-1 draw.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

The West Coast is getting USL PRO representation next year with the announcement of the new LA Blues franchise, set to begin play in 2011.  The club, which had been rumored for about a month to be the newest franchise for U.S. soccer’s new third division, will play in Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium and be coached by Charlie Naimo, the former head coach of the Pali Blues (a professional women’s soccer club) and team general manager.

The club becomes the third division’s fourteenth team and moves USL PRO two teams away from its stated goal of having sixteen for the 2011 season.  Being able to field a stable and competitive league for the upcoming year would be a major accomplishment for U.S. soccer, considering that last season there was so much turmoil in the second and third levels.  For 2011, the USSF Division 2 Professional League (composed of the USL and NASL) will be replaced with the NASL, while the third division USL-2 will be replaced with USL PRO.

LA will join Barracuda FC (Antigua), Charleston Battery, Charlotte Eagles, Dayton Dutch Lions, FC New York, Harrisburg City Islanders, Orlando City FC, Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Richmond Kickers, River Plate Puerto Rico, Rochester Rhinos, Sevilla FC Puerto Rico, and Wilmington Hammerheads in USL PRO.

Notice one thing about the Blues, however, compared to the rest of this list.  Los Angeles is the only team on the West Coast.  In fact, it is the only U.S. club not on the East Coast, which could cause some major headaches and travel costs for the small start-up.  But USL PRO CEO Alec Papadakis promised further West Coast expansion as soon as 2012 and stated LA would be the building block of that effort.  Hopefully the team can remain financially competitive until then.

Additionally, the team is located in a city with two other major soccer franchises.  Despite the promised Fox Soccer Channel coverage of the league, it will be hard to garner attention in a market already saturated with a product that does not receive enough attention.  The club is playing it smart by playing in a small stadium but I wonder where the club’s fan base will come from.

However, I think this is major progress for U.S. soccer.  If the Blues can survive and thrive as a west coast division is built, it will help USL PRO reach into new markets and further stabilize the USSF structure.  As soccer fans know, a stable soccer pyramid will help this country begin to solidify its hierarchy and regularly produce national team and international club talent in this country.  Until that happens, MLS and the rest of American soccer will be a step behind, so welcome to the league LA Blues!

16 Responses to USL PRO Goes Coastal with New LA Franchise

  1. Joe says:

    Not to naysay, but wouldn’t it make more sense to develop the second and third tier leagues around markets not already served by MLS? I suppose it will be nice if this is a success, but I have a hard time seeing it work with the issues mentioned in the article (travel plus an already saturated LA pro soccer market).

    I guess London has dozens of teams, but LA is no London…

  2. Garrett says:

    Wait wait wait? USL purports itself as a regional league, yet puts a team on the West Coast? I hope the other USL owners were told that would have to include travel costs out to LA when they signed up. So glad that Tampa stayed NASL so we don’t have to deal with USL mismanagement anymore.

  3. Robert says:

    I understand the need for a second division but without MLS subsidies division II & III will fail unless promotion/relegation is implemented. However, I believe this will never happen. MLS has loaded up franchises with stadium construction debt along with the $40m pay to play fee and will not have enough operating cash flow to pay back debt and interest payments. I congratulate all owners attempting to try their hand in division II,III soccer but you will fail in the current structure.

    • Joe says:

      Well, I think the idea is that just like in Major League Baseball, it is the PLAYERS that get promoted/relegated up and down the leagues based on their performance. Obviously it’s different because MLS teams aren’t directly affiliated with lower tier teams, but that seems to be what the article claims is the advantage to expanding USL. I’m not saying I agree, but that’s the argument on the table.

    • Dan says:

      There will be promotion/relegation one day, Garber has pretty much stated that. When one day comes is probably quite a long time off.

      I really like the fact of 3 clubs in LA but unless its located downtown or in northern LA i dont see it working. Even then, how do you attract people to watch a lonely club when you have Beckham and Donovan down south, with a 3hr traffic jam tho…

  4. The other wrinkle is that the Home Depot Center is in southern L.A. County while Cal State-Fullerton is in northern L.A. County aka they are very close. Fullerton is almost a straight line east of the HDC, why would soccer fans go to an L.A. Blues game if they can see Chivas or the Galaxy nearby?

    • Manuel says:

      You may want to check your geography as Fullerton is in Northern Orange County not LA County. Although I’m a Galaxy supporter it would be nice to see a game that is just across town from where I live every now and then especially if they play a friendly against the Galaxy Reserve side. I’d even probably check out a US Cup match if they reach that far. I’m very curious to see what other regional clubs they’ll introduce in 2010.

  5. The Gaffer says:

    When I saw the news today that LA had gotten a USL team, I thought they meant Louisiana. I was flabbergasted when I found out it was LA as in Los Angeles.

    The Gaffer

  6. Charles says:

    “Until that (stable soccer pyramid ) happens, MLS and the rest of American soccer will be a step behind, so welcome to the league LA Blues!”

    Well that is not true. Or it better not be….Unless you are talking about general trend of more soccer support.

    This “pyramid” is a hopeless dream for the pro/rel group, who STILL think it might happen someday in the US. Why do I have a feeling they will still think this 100 years from now ?

    • Joe says:

      I get that you don’t think pro/rel is a good idea at the present time, and I agree with you. But how can you not see the value of a “pyramid” in terms of having lower leagues/teams that are developing quality talent? I think that we’re so far behind in soccer because after the youth level we are simply losing athletes to other sports, who see more a future there instead of MLS. NCAA soccer is fine, but what is so wrong with having another non-collegiate way for players to gain experience to excel in the big leagues? Baseball does it both ways…

    • Robert says:

      keep supporting you zombie MLS league Charles. Pro/Rel is coming soon and it will be a great success for American Soccer. No longer will US soccer suffer in this pay to play league called MLS.

  7. Ultra says:

    Hmm… regional league. I guess Los Angeles to Antigua is a “region” right? Is a league that stretches over 3600 miles, and requires plane flights to the Caribbean, what teams like Charleston and Rochester signed up for when citing travel costs as a problem?

    Classic USL shenanigans.

  8. K-Town says:

    I like that MLS and DIV II are national leagues. However, I think that DIV III needs to regional just like the DIV IV PDL is. As it stands there would be a NE and SE region for DIV III. Wait to expand out west. Have like four regions eventually. Four regional champs could play a playoff for the national title for DIV III.

  9. Andy says:

    like others have said Div II & III will never be stable until pro/rel is implemented.

    as far as the LA Blues. I think it should be applauded that a USL team is trying to make it in the LA market I just question their decision to play in Fullerton. It’s not even LA, it’s Orange County.

    They would be better off playing closer to downtown LA or even east la. I’m sure finding a place to play in LA will be difficult – but there’s USC’s soccer stadium, cal state LA.

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