Division Three League Will Field 12 teams in 2020 Season
MIAMI, Fla. (January 25, 2020) —
For its second season, the USL League One will field twelve teams.
Among the newcomers will be second teams for Inter Miami CF’s and the New England Revolution. Miami and New England join Union Omaha SC as expansion clubs.
Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami
“We’re thrilled to have Inter Miami CF and the New England Revolution join League One,” said USL Senior Vice President Steven Short. “It’s exciting to watch our league as it continues to grow in both size and intensity. We’re already looking forward to our second year of competition and know that both of these clubs will be tremendous additions to our league.”
Inter Miami is Major League Soccer’s 25th club, set to begin play in March of 2020. The club is led by managing owner Jorge Mas and co-owner and President of Soccer Operations David Beckham. The League One side will train and play in Fort Lauderdale at the new Inter Miami Stadium and Training Complex (Centro Deportivo). The first team as well as the Inter Miami CF Academy will also train and practice there.
Sporting Director Paul McDonough had this to say:
“League One is the final piece of our development structure. We are proud to close this deal and join a competitive league where our youth players can compete against quality opponents,” said Paul McDonough, the Sporting Director for Inter Miami CF. “This team will provide more opportunities for players from South Florida as well as elite international prospects.”
New England Revolution
Owned and operated by Robert and Jonathan Kraft, the New England Revolution are one of the founding members of Major League Soccer and have a rich history that spans more than two decades since the league’s launch in 1994. In addition to winning the U.S. Open Cup in 2007, the Revolution have participated in five MLS Cups, with its most recent appearance coming in 2014. New England has qualified for the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs under the leadership of newly appointed Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena who will oversee the League One side in conjunction with Technical Director Curt Onalfo.
“The addition of Revolution II is a critical step that fully defines the pathway for our younger players to professional soccer with the New England Revolution,” said Revolution Technical Director Curt Onalfo. “USL League One is an excellent opportunity for our young talent to compete against quality opponents and we’re excited for how this new team will elevate our player development model.”
Union Omaha’s brand and colours were revealed last October by Alliance Omaha Soccer (USL Omaha).
“We are a club formed by people with a common purpose; it only seemed appropriate that our name should embody this vision. We are honored to officially be Union Omaha,” said Alliance Omaha Soccer CEO and Managing Partner Gary Green. “This is a crest our players and our fans will wear over their hearts, and they do so knowing that it is not just the crest, but our club, being built from the ground up. We want to thank the thousands of fans that were a part of us identifying a name and designing the crest. We will continue to listen to you as we grow this club and grow Omaha.”
The crest was designed by Matthew Wolff, owner of Matthew Wolff Design, in collaboration and input from the community.
“Union Omaha is the only American club represented by the great horned owl, and it will serve as a symbol for us to be fierce and competitive on the pitch,” said Matt Homonoff, the team’s Chief Operating Officer. “Off the pitch, the stars will be our three pillars for all we do in the community. This club will always be about the incredible people that represent our region, creating a sense of place and sharing a common purpose to grow the beautiful game.”
Louisville City FC, a professional soccer team in the United States’ USL Championship, reverses re-brand after launching.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (January 24, 2020) —
Last month, United Soccer League Championship club Louisville City FCunveiled a new logo (badge/crest) in advance of the 2020 season and the club’s move to its brand new soccer-specific stadium.
Four days later, the club scrapped the new logo, after intense dislike by its supporters, fans and the community. It seems supporters do matter after all, at least for some teams.
Production of merchandise with the new crest was also halted. The team will revert to its familiar purple and gold kits, complete with the old badge, for the 2020 season while it studies the options beyond this season.
The redesigned crest, which was unveiled on December 16, was timed to coincide with the team moving into its new 11,700-seat soccer stadium, Lynn Family Stadium. But the logo was met with widespread disapproval from fans.
It’s not my purpose to critique the new design, although personally I didn’t think it was bad at all. It does have a classic, football logo appeal to it, and the symbology used at least has relevance to Louisville. [The city was named in honour of King Louis XVI of France, whose soldiers were aiding the colonists in their rebellion against England.] The new logo retained the team’s signature purple, but it also incorporated “Oak Chair” Black and “Kentucky Limestone” Grey as the official colors of the club. Team president Brad Estes said the biggest challenge of using the color gold was keeping it consistent across all merchandise. The new logo’s five-sided profile was meant to reference the five bridges that cross the Ohio River, while the fleur-de-lis and white stars sitting in the middle were inspired by Louisville’s city flag. It also ditched “Louisville City FC” in favour of the team’s nickname “Lou City.”
Reaction from fans on Twitter ranged from “I don’t hate this” to “don’t mess with success” and “we hate this.” Overall, fan reaction was more negative than positive. The club listened and took decisive action.
In scrapping the poorly received rebrand, the club’s reached out to the fans and supporters. Team president Brad Estes sent out via twitter this message:
“It has been a long few days. The main thing I want to say is that we love this club and would never intentionally alienate our supporters. I think you know that now. We are, however, human and will err at times. We will get it right, whatever that takes. Today was a better day.”
On December 19, the club also issued an official statement:
Balancing Loss Against Good Will
A great deal of effort goes into changing a team’s kit or logo, and it’s certain that Louisville City spent money in advance on this now discarded re-brand. The new purple and black crest was created by Louisville marketing firm Doe-Anderson, and was reportedly the outcome of “hundreds of possible designs.” The club’s kit supplier is adidas.
This was the second time Louisville City has incurred the wrath of its fans over the design of its logo. Having only been founded in 2014, the team’s original crest was abandoned in less than a week following an outcry from supporters. A design contest was then held to select an all-new badge.
While the club is going to lose money in halting production on the new crest and going back to the design stage, in the long term Louisville City is going to recoup that loss by earning good will among its most passionate supporters. It will certainly leave the impression in their minds that their team listens. It will also result in continued sales rather than a possible large-scale boycotting of the team’s apparel. On balance, it’s a smart business decision, even if it’s a suprising admission by a professional team that its re-brand was a colosal failure.
Responsibility To Fans
I will say it is a refreshing change. Let’s not kid ourselves, professional teams, no matter the sport are businesses, and unless you’re a noprofit corporation, turning a profit is every businesses’ goal.
However, too many pro sports teams in this country are dismissive of their fans when it comes to team branding and identity. A text book example is the Chicago Fire, though they are not by any means the only team. Too many pro sports teams are dismissive of their fans, period, taking them for granted and expecting them to spend money no matter the product or image they put out.
It is worth noting that not every rebrand is poorly conceived or received. Some are very well-thought out and inclusive. While a team has every right to re-brand or change its crest as it sees fit, if it wants its supporters to buy in, it needs to make them feel like a part of the process. Examples might include surveying the supporters groups, season-ticket holders or fans in general; real focus groups that are large enough to actually gauge peoples’ reactions, not just act as a rubberstamp for what an owner wants; test-marketing colours; showing design ideas; voting on logos, etc. While there’s always likely to be some resistance to change, involving those who care most about the team should be considered a ‘best practice’ approach in any organisation. Otherwise, a team runs the risk of alienating its most loyal fans and changing their history. Ask any fan of the Fire, or Leeds United for that matter, and most will agree.
Louisville City’s re-branding attempt notwithstanding, the Derby City club is one of the most successful clubs in the country, They finished runners-up in the USL Championship in 2019, having won the title the two preceeding years, becoming the first club in the USL Championship to win consecutive championships. The club was founded in 2014 after Orlando City’s USL team franchise rights were relocated to Louisville, and played their first USL season in 2015. The team adopted the colours of Orlando City, the latter holding a minority ownership stake in Louisville City FC during their inaugural MLS campaign in 2015, a relationship that ended in 2016. During that time Louisville City featured as the Lion’s USL affiliate team.
This season, Louisville City is moving to a brand new stadium in the Butchertown section of the city. It will host its inaugural match at Lynn Family Stadium on April 11, 2020, in a nationally-televised match against Birmingham Legion. I attended a match when the club played at a Slugger Field and it was an exciting atmosphere. Moving to a stadium designed for soccer will be an even bigger improvement.
The example set by Louisville City should be a lesson to be learned. Involving fans in matters such as branding is a best-practice approach that can have a positive impact and create lasting good will over the long term.
Home games will be at Riccardo Silva Stadium On The FIU Campus
MIAMI, Fla. (December 12, 2019) —
The Miami Football Club will once again be in the second division of U.S. Soccer. The fifth-year club, which began life in and became one of the flagship teams in the now-defunct NASL, has played the last two seasons in the NPSL and NISA, lower level leagues outside of the official division sanctioning of U.S. Soccer.
The team will join the United Soccer Leagues and begin play in the USL Championship in March, 2020 with its home games to be played at Riccardo Silva Stadium on the campus of Florida International University (“FIU”) in the western part of Miami-Dade County. That venue was renamed in 2017 by FIU in recognition of Silva’s financial contributions to the college’s athletic programs. It marks a full time return to that venue for the first time since 2017.
The news was announced at last week’s USL 2019 Annual Winter Summit, held in Orlando. Miami FC sporting personnel and club employees were present, holding meetings and attending sessions.
The pathway to the USL Championship bears the label “Made in Canada / Fait au Canada.” Here is the background: The Ottawa Fury was owned by Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (“OSEG”). The club joined the NASL in 2014, later moving from the NASL to the USL in 2017. The club has averaged nearly 5,000 fans over the past three seasons, and reached the USL Championship Playoffs in 2019. On November 8, 2019, The Fury announced a suspension of their operations. after receiving news that their sanctioning to play in USL would not be renewed. This was not entirely unexpected, as Ottawa had to fight to receive sanctioning from Concacaf prior to the 2019 season, and Concacaf had been clear that the licensing would be for 2019 only. The confederation has been accused of trying to force Fury FC into the Canadian Premier League, something the club’s owners did not wish to do.
Relocation of the franchise to the United States was one of the ways the franchise could continue in the USL Championship, since it eliminated the need for approval from Canada Soccer, U.S. Soccer and Concacaf. Moreover, a relocation clause was contained in the club’s franchise agreement with the USL.
Last Wednesday, OSEG announced that they had exercised those contractual rights to relocate. Under the arrangement, Ottawa Fury are officially relocating to Miami pursuant to their USL franchise agreement. They then will enter into a contract to sell the club to Riccardo Silva. Under the terms of the sale, the club will operate under the existing the Miami FC name, with Miami FC’s logo and iconic aqua, orange and blue colour scheme. The purchase by the Miami FC involves its same club and staff, which means the Miami FC will not field a team in either the NPSL or the NISA moving forward. The club will also maintain the same ownership and technical staff.
The amount the Miami FC are paying to purchase OSEG’s franchise was not disclosed. For context, the initial expansion fee for USL Championship was estimated to be $7 million in 2018. The likelihood is that the purchase price was less than that, given the desire/need of OSEG to sell its franchise, but probably still a significant amount given the level of interest around the country in obtaining a USL franchise.
“We are extremely grateful to USL CEO Alec Papadakis and President Jake Edwards for their leadership and whole-hearted support during this difficult process,” said Ottawa Fury FC President John Pugh. “We’re also thankful to Paul Dalglish and his team for helping to facilitate this transaction and wish The Miami FC well.”
A Win For The Miami FC
The Miami FC have been highly successful from the start, winning nine trophies and becoming an established presence in the heart of the Miami soccer community. The club recently launched The Miami FC Youth Academy Program with the past year, as part of its commitment to growing the game not only at the professional level, but also at the youth level in Miami.
“We could not be more excited to bring The Miami FC to the USL Championship in 2020,” said The Miami FC General Manager Paul Dalglish. “We will build on the Fury’s success and honour their history, while also elevating our club and our community as part of the fastest growing professional soccer league in the United States. I want to thank Ottawa Sports Entertainment Group for putting this deal together, and to USL CEO Alec Papadakis for welcoming us to the league.”
Dalglish recently moved into the general manager role, after being the head coach. Replacing him on the touchline is Nelson Vargas, a former forward who played for the Miami Fusion. Vargas also was on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team. He has served as an assistant coach for Dalglish since 2018. Miami is expected to maintain most of the same roster, as many of the players on the current roster are signed for 2020. The squad was both NPSL and NISA champions this season.
Dalglish says the move to the USL Championship will help Miami FC further their ties in the community. “The decision to join USL … gives us a stable platform to further expand our academy program and community work, meaning accessible, inclusive and fun family events that bring all of Miami’s soccer community together,” he said.
What makes this turn of events particularly interesting is that it is set against the backdrop of how Miami FC owner Riccardo Silva has positioned the Miami FC since the club’s inception.
Silva has been a leading advocate of opening the system of US Soccer. He founded the club in 2015, along with former AC Milan defender and fellow Italian Paolo Maldini. This came after David Beckham’s initial announcement in February 2014 of his intent to exercise his option to bring an MLS expansion franchise to Miami. At that time, Beckham’s MLS club was only provisional, and initially it was thought the team could begin play in 2016 or maybe 2017 at the latest. However, it would take until January 29, 2018 for Miami Beckham United to even become a confirmed expansion club in MLS. During that interim Silva was able to insert the Miami FC into the market and get them launched for the 2016 NASL season.
In 2017, Silva made a $4 billion media rights offer to Major League Soccer. That offer was summarily rejected by MLS, though in defence of that position it came at a time that MLS was contractually bound to its existing broadcast rights holders, which made any negotiations impossible without breaching the contracts it had in place. The offer was also conditioned upon MLS agreeing to implement promotion and relegation, something that has been a non-starter for MLS.
Returning to the present, it might seem surprising to some that a club whose owner has been such an advocate of change in the system would join USL, a league that cooperates with MLS, and in fact has clubs that are owned by MLS clubs operating within its very ranks. But USL continues its upward trajectory, gaining new markets and seeing more of its clubs moving to better facilities. The league has established itself as a solid second division league and fertile ground for investors interested in soccer. It has also been exploring a more open system. USL president Jake Edwards has been very open about his aim to add promotion and relegation in the USL between its second-division Championship and third-division League One. While that falls short of the completely open system Silva has been advocating, it would still be a significant step in that direction.
“We are evaluating what the landscape looks like in all of those divisions over the course of the next few seasons,” Edwards said when interviewed this summer. “But that work is happening now… I’m also well aware of the excitement and the drama, the reward for ambition, and the punishment for apathy.”
Analysing the move to the USL Championship, by all accounts it is a smart business decision for Silva and the Miami FC. While they were advocating for change in the system, the collapse of the NASL left them without a viable second-tier league to play in. The NASL, now defunct, is still the subject of an existing lawsuit in Federal Court, one that it is likely to lose. The Miami FC, along with minor league side Kingston Stockade, also filed a case with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) in Switzerland, requesting that judicial body to rule that the United States Soccer Federation is in violation of Article 9 of FIFA, which requires promotion-relegation to be the method of determining what teams compete at what level within a country’s domestic league stricture. The CAS has yet to make a ruling, but it would be a real shock to see it intervene in the way the petitioners would like, one that would likely lead to more litigation. Finally, without any disrespect to leagues such as the NISA, the road to having the strength to be a real force for chance is a long and difficult one absent forces beyond them also wanting change.
In conclusion, joining an ambitious league growing in quality and reputation each year, with a vision of where it wants to go can only be a benefit to the Miami FC. Being in a stable league that has a national television contract is something the club needs, given that MLS’ Inter Miami CF also begins its inaugural season in March, has an ownership group worth billions and will certainly be the primary focus of the soccer media’s attention. Competition though, even if indirect and on different levels at different budgets, is always good. Smart scheduling, a well-thought marketing plan, outstanding communications team, proper price points for tickets and merchandise and giving fans a reason to feel invested in the club will all be keys to success. Outsiders may call Miami a bad sports town, but history has proven that a winning sports team here will get attention. Miami and South Florida have enjoyed an explosion of fútbol at all levels in recent years. New clubs have sprung up everywhere from West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, south across Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Some are even bringing the concept of having fans own a stake in the club to the region. The demographics are arguably the best in the nation for soccer. The game resonates with the population, and the city and region surrounding Miami are easily big enough for more than one club to not only survive, but thrive.
To sum up Miami FC’s decision, it’s a positive move by a club that is committed to change and has likely reached a conclusion that the best avenue to continue to push for that change is as a part of the established system instead of as an outsider.
Clubs approach to its USL Championship club seen as a model
MIAMI, Fla. (December 18, 2019) —
Real Monarchs SLC, the second team of MLS club Real Salt Lake, recently won the USL Championship with an impressive 3-1 away victory over Louisville City FC. That result was unexpected, both because of Louisville’s impressive record at home and the fact that they were the two-time defending champions of the USL Championship. They are also one of the most successful independent teams in the USL Championship, with highly engaged fans, active community involvement and a metro government that fully supports the club. In all respects, Louisville has been a model market and team for USL.
By way of a little further background, the USL is comprised both of independent clubs and clubs owned by or affiliated with MLS clubs. The future of the so-called “MLS2” sides in the USL Championship, which constitutes the second division of US Soccer, is currently very much unclear.
The Monarchs’ title took place just a few months after a report circulated that the USL was looking into repositioning all of the MLS-affiliated clubs (colloquially known as “2” teams) out of the Championship and into USL League One, the third division of US Soccer, as soon as 2021. Indeed, the two newest MLS2 teams for next season, New England Revolution 2 and Inter Miami CF 2, will be starting play in USL One.
One of the biggest factors where the disparity between MLS2 teams and independent clubs is on full display is match attendance. Nine of the 10 lowest-drawing sides are MLS-owned. When New York Red Bulls II hosted fellow playoff contender Saint Louis FC in early August, the announced attendance was just 756 fans, which was not far off their season average of 852. The Monarchs’ relatively low 1,983 fans per game made them the second-highest drawing affiliate club (28th in the USL Championship).
Putting attendance aside, naturally, independent clubs organise themselves somewhat differently from MLS owned clubs. But even within the category of MLS2 clubs, there are different philosophies. The Real Salt Lake approach its MLS2 team exhibits more of a hybrid approach. What follows is a discussion of their approach.
The Real Salt Lake Approach To The MLS2 Team
The approach Real Salt Lake takes with its MLS2 side, Real Monarchs could be considered a model of how to organise an MLS2 side, and a “best case” scenario for other MLS2 clubs to borrow from.
The main differentiator is that the first and second teams work in tandem with one another, with plenty of cohesion in training and in style. At other clubs, the MLS and USL sides often train at separate times. Not so in Salt Lake City. By working together every day and having greater movement of players between the two sides, the club ensures that its players have a more cohesive understanding of Real Salt Lake’s philosophy on the pitch at all levels. Midfielder Justin Portillo was a prime example of this, making the RSL matchday roster for 19 matches and the Monarchs’ squad on 16 occasions during the 2019 season.
The results on the pitch suggest that this type of approach to training and having players who can rotate between the MLS and USL sides benefits both squads. Case in point: In MLS, Real Salt Lake finished third in the Western Conference despite firing their coach and their general manager midseason, and they won their first playoff match, against Portland. One rung below in the USL Championship, the Monarchs finished fourth in the conference, then beat top-seed Phoenix Rising, El Paso and then Louisville City to take the title.
While most affiliates have underwhelmed by second-division standards, the Monarchs are among the league’s best clubs — 2 team or otherwise.
“We’re a fully professional second division team,” RSL assistant GM Dan Egner said in an interview before the USL Championship match. Egner serves as the general manager of the USL side. “We have 30 guys on our MLS roster and we have 20 guys on our USL roster. We view that as having one roster of 50 guys — I think that’s a little different than how a lot of people look at it. When that report came out, it was concerning because we think being in the Championship is of the utmost importance for what we’re trying to do. It’s not to say that League One can’t get there; we just don’t feel that it’s there right now. We’re extremely happy with what the Championship provides us.”
Secondly, Real Salt Lake sees Real Monarchs as being a place to develop promising players and to obtain a benefit if or when those players are later transferred. An example of this also happened this last season. Stanley Okumu, a 21-year old centre back who had signed with the Monarchs midway through the 2018 season, was really finding his form in 2019 and was gaining key minutes in the starting eleven for the Monarchs.
Okumu’s good form caught the attention of the selectors of his national team, and he was called up to the Kenya roster for the 2019 African Cup of Nations. He started all three group-stage matches in a group that featured eventual champions Algeria and tournament favourites Senegal. His performance did not go unnoticed. In late August, Okumu secured a transfer to Swedish Allsvenskan side IF Elfsborg. Real Monarchs collected a $200,000 fee as part of the transaction, which was a nice profit — Real Salt Lake had signed him in 2018 on a free transfer from NPSL club AFC Ann Arbor. The club saw the deal as a validation of their ability to develop promising players — even those who do not come through the RSL Academy.
Real Salt Lake could have just moved Okumu up to the first team, since it was clear he was capable of playing at a higher level than the USL Championship. But RSL was already strong at the centre back position, with four capable players on the senior team: Homegrown former U.S. youth international Justen Glad, former Queens Park Rangers anchor Nedum Onuoha, Marcelo Silva and homegrown Erik Holt.
It was at this point that the closeness of the MLS and USL technical staffs resulted in a decision that benefitted both Okumu as well as Real Salt Lake. “After AFCON, we talked to the first-team coaching staff about where we saw Stanley falling in the next six months, even 18 months,” Egner said. “Realistically, his best-case scenario had him as the MLS team’s third centre back. Is that good for Stanley financially? Obviously, an MLS deal is better than his Monarchs’ (deal). But the playing time doesn’t really change because, inevitably, you’re playing the same USL games (on loan from the MLS side). If we could move him somewhere else, that’s going to benefit him and us. He performed very well at AFCON — he was arguably Kenya’s best player, and they were in the toughest group. When the Sweden move became tangible, we acted on it. For us, that move and the news that it made, and the (club) record (transfer fee), the history that it made was more significant for us than him becoming our third centre back.”
A third different way of managing is that the USL Monarchs deploy academy graduates alongside more experienced players in the starting lineup. This is something not widely done on MLS2 sides. After Okumu left for Sweden, homegrown defender Erik Holt made the most of his opportunities, scoring the conference-clinching goal against El Paso Locomotive. Next to him were a pair of USL veterans: 27-year-old Konrad Plewa (formerly of Red Bulls II and Saint Louis FC) and 28-year-old Kalen Ryden (Oklahoma City Energy and the NASL’s Jacksonville Armada).
Fourth, Real Salt Lake and Monarchs work together when an MLS veteran needs playing time to regain form and view it as an opportunity for the younger players on the USL side to interact and see how the older veteran structures his training and carries himself as a professional footballer. This past season, veteran RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland is an example. At 31, he’s the team’s eldest field player by a comfortable margin.
“Naturally, I would have preferred to play a lot of games with the first team,” Mulholland said. “Opportunities were very slim. We’re only happy when you’re playing, you know. It’s an RSL family all under one roof, so I have the ability to make the first team roster one week and drop down to play a game with the Monarchs in the next. I’m in a good position to get some games under my belt and get back into a rhythm of grinding for 90 minutes. That’s what I missed the most.” Mulholland not only regained form but was a key contributor for the Monarchs. He played 12 games for the Monarchs including their postseason run. Their record: 11 wins, one draw, zero defeats. He put in a man-of-the-match-caliber performance in Louisville.
The 31-year-old Englishman had been a fixture in Major League Soccer over the past few years, having made 123 MLS appearances, 97 of them starts. However, the midfielder only had two first team appearances in 2018, and it was Mulholland himself who asked to be placed on the Monarchs. The USL side had the room and since Mulholland would not be preventing a younger player at that position from getting playing time, they agreed. It paid dividends for the Real Monarchs. “I constantly kept asking my coaching staff [to play with the Monarchs],” said Mulholland. “The only way I can help the first team is if I can gain some form and rhythm with the Monarchs so every three weeks or so I’d ask to go down and play for them. And then, I just started to get in a good rhythm with the Monarchs, so it felt great. It always feels good to get 90 minutes under your belt and continuously playing week-in, week-out.” Mulholland was a key contributor for the Monarchs in the USL Championship Playoffs, playing all but 15 minutes as the side navigated its way past Orange County SC, Regular Season Title-Winner Phoenix Rising FC and El Paso Locomotive FC to earn a place in the final.
Fifth, the Monarchs’ approach is to split the minutes between veterans and academy graduates. MLS2 sides have a reputation for sacrificing quality in order to develop younger talent, and the Monarchs’ approach is a contrasting one. In their estimation, splitting the minutes can help accomplish quicker development. They believe it is the best of both philosophies in the USL.
“I don’t say this in a negative way, but we don’t really compare ourselves to other 2 clubs because we feel we’re the only MLS club taking this approach,” Egner said. “That’s not to say that anyone’s approach is right or wrong, but we’re the only one taking the approach that we are. It’s not really fair for us to compare ourselves to them, because they have different motives, a different model. When it comes to independent clubs, we want to beat them. For us, the measuring stick is the independent clubs and how our guys stack up to them. In the last few years, we’re right up there with them.”
Real Monarch players are made aware right off the bat that the club has three objectives, each with equal importance. The first is to help the players get to the first team. The second, should a player not make the MLS roster, is to help them earn another professional contract in a good situation. The third is to win — no matter the opponent or setting.
The first point of the club’s vision shows that while they take a balanced approach, is doesn’t come at the expense of the developmental component. Even in this title-winning season, homegrown players like Holt, U.S. U-20 goalkeeper David Ochoa, and 22-year-old striker Douglas Martínez, an international for Honduras, all played leading roles. Competing against Championship opponents has helped all three to grow in 2019, and each could take on a key role for RSL in the future.
Success is usually emulated, so if Real Monarchs can continue to achieve in the USL Championship, expect more MLS clubs to take notice and set up their MLS2 sides in similar fashion, whether those sides ultimately reside in the second or third division.
(Cover Photo: David R. Lutman/Special To Courier Journal)
Club has been in dispute with Concacaf over sanctioning
Not Interested in Canadian Premier Leagueat present time
Ottawa, Ont. (November 9, 2019) —
Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (“OSEG”) announced at a morning press conference on Friday, November 8, 2019 that the Ottawa Fury FC will suspend operations, effective immediately.
The Fury are one of three sports teams owned by OSEG, along with the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks and the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. Fury FC began as a North American Soccer League expansion franchise in 2014, then joined the United Soccer League in 2017. The NASL subsequently was denied sanctioning as a second division league by US Soccer and ceased operations.
A statement in English and French by club president John Pugh was released on the club’s website:
In a statement, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) Mark Goudie said he believes the U.S. Soccer Federation and Concacaf intentionally ran them out of time. “I think it’s apparent that soccer’s hierarchy is trying to force Fury FC out of the USL,” the statement said.
As a Canadian club playing in a non-domestic league, they are required to get permission from each of the following governing bodies: The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), CONCACAF and ultimately FIFA. The Fury obtained the approval in 2014 when they joined the NASL and it rolled over each year. When they joined the USL they had to reapply. This was in accordance with FIFA Statute 73, which offers only limited guidance:
“Associations, leagues or clubs that are affiliated to a member association may only join another member association or take part in competitions on that member association’s territory under exceptional circumstances. In each case, authorisation must be given by both member associations, the respective confederation(s) and by FIFA.” – FIFA Statute 73
The term ‘exceptional circumstances’ has not been defined, rendering the statute vague and open to interpretation. In the absence of defined terms, one is left with legal arguments as to what are exceptional circumstances. Some example might include: (1) clubs that are in close proximity to another member’s territory and have been long-standing members of the other league, (2) clubs that have moved because of political conflict or wars affecting their homes countries, (3) clubs located in member associations where there isn’t currently a professional league (ex. Monaco, Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino, etc.), and (4) clubs in disputed territories. The arrival of the Canadian Premier League (“CanPL”) for the 2019 season changed the landscape and possibly what would be viewed as ‘exceptional circumstances.’
Prior to the 2019 USL season, governing body Concacaf, the governing body of North American and Caribbean soccer, refused to sanction Fury FC, a Canadian team, to play in the US-based USL, instead trying to pressure them into joining the newly launched Canadian Premier League. The team from Canada’s capital filed a petition with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a bid to fight that ruling from Concacaf.
On December 21st, 2018, the Fury announced that Concacaf had reversed its decision and would sanction Ottawa for the USL Championship. Concacaf later confirmed this in a letter critical of the action the Fury had taken.
Thus, Fury FC finally got the sanctioning it sought, but the bad blood with Concacaf lingered.
The USL was very cooperative with the Fury. At the time they joined USL, the possibility of them leaving for the CanPL was considered. USL consenting as part of the franchise agreement with the Fury to let the team leave with no exit fee if they decided joining the CPL would be in their best interests. Initially that agreement required twelve months’ notice, which was later shortened to six months.
OSEG decided not to apply for membership in the CanPL. This decision was likely based upon the uncertain viability of the new league. The club had paid a fee to join USL, after having already paid in the first instance to join the NASL. Reports suggest that the CanPL was at one point willing to waive its expansion fee to entice the Ottawa Fury to join.
Beyond the legal interpretations of FIFA statute 73, there does seem to be politics involved. Concacaf president Victor Montagliani, who is from Canada, was an advocate for the founding of Canada’s new first division. The CanPL viewed Ottawa as a critical market needed for the success of the league (Canada’s fourth largest with a metropolitan population of around 1.3 million) and approached the Fury about joining.
What happens to the franchise going forward is not decided at this point. The club apparently is not interested in joining the CanPL, and it is less than six months until next season begins. One possible scenario is that the club returns in one to two seasons after the CanPL shows some potential. Relocation to the U.S. is certainly an option and would end the need for sanctioning via the above mechanisms. The current ownership however is rooted in Ottawa and may not want to place the club elsewhere in a market they are not familiar with. A sale of the franchise is more likely, and there would likely be a number of cities and owners interested. USL is in a stage of rapid growth and there are at least a dozen or more markets in the U.S. that could obtain franchisees.
In the end, none of this makes much sense, which is a further reason to implicate politics. Ottawa has had a good track record in the USL and plays in a good facility in a sizeable market. It should not matter to Concacaf what league they choose to play in, especially given the fact that there are three very successful Canadian clubs already playing in MLS, and those clubs are not going to leave MLS anytime soon, if ever. Further, it is customary in other North American sports for there to be teams in both countries. While it may have the authority to deny sanctioning, it is a situation where exercising the discretion not to act should have been the order of the day.
Ottawa finished in eighth place in the USL’s Eastern Conference in 2019 with a 14-10-10 record.
The first American signed by Inter Miami CF, he has played on the United States Men’s National Teams at the Youth Level and has played in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Miami, Fla. (Friday, September 20, 2019) —
Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami announced today the signing of their fifth player, George Acosta, a Miami native.
Acosta, a 19-year-old offensive midfielder, played on the U-14 and U-16 teams at Weston FC (Fla.) Academy and was well known to the Inter Miami Academy coaching staff. His still young playing career has an international flavour: In 2014, he moved from South Florida to Argentine club Estudiantes de La Plata. After Argentina, Acosta moved back to the United States to play and study at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. From there, he joined the U-23 team of North Carolina FC.
On July 1, 2018, he joined Club Atlético Boca Juniors’ U-20 team, an achievement that is very rare for a foreign player. He spent the 2018-2019 season on the U-20 and later the Second Team of Boca Juniors. Recently, in August, Acosta was transferred to Austin Bold of the USL Championship, where he has played two games. He will remain with Austin until January when he will join his Internacional teammates for preseason training.
The rising star also has experience as a member of several United States Youth National Teams. Acosta participated in the Montaigu Tournament in France with the US U-16 National Team. His six goals (most of the tournament) helped the United States win the tournament for the first time since 1992. He has played 12 matches on the United States U-17 team, and featured for the Stars and Stripes in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, scoring a goal against Colombia and making an assist versus India. (The US reached the quarterfinals of that tournament before bowing out to Brazil 4-1). This year, he was called up to the US U-23 team (currently coached by Inter Miami’s Jason Kreis) for a training camp in June. He also played on the US U-15 and U-19 sides.
“He’s someone that we know will play in the highest levels of soccer in the coming years. He has the opportunity of being one of the USMNT top stars in the near future,” said Austin Bold F.C. General Manager Roberto Silva at the time Acosta was signed.
“We are excited to sign a player of George’s potential and look forward to integrating him into our inaugural roster,” said Inter Miami CF Sporting Director Paul McDonough. Managing Owner Jorge Mas sent out this message this morning via Twitter:
Acosta has dual citizenship with the USA and Colombia (his father is Colombian), so he will not count towards Inter Miami’s current limit of eight (8) international players. The Rosanegro currently have three international players (Carranza, Pellegrini and Makoun) on the roster. Canadian David Norman, Jr. does not count against that limit per MLS rules.
US-based broadcaster ESPN has retained domestic broadcast rights to the second and third tiers of the US club soccer system after extending its deal with the United Soccer League (“USL”).
The Disney-owned network has signed a three-year deal that covers TV and digital rights to the USL Championship, the second tier of the US Soccer system, as well as the third-tier USL League One until 2022.
Under the terms of the agreement, ESPN has committed to tripling the number of USL games shown across its family of channels, including the addition of Spanish-language telecasts on ESPN Deportes and expanded coverage on its direct-to-consumer streaming service ESPN+.
The relationship between the USL and ESPN will enter its fifth full year in 2020 as the league celebrates its 10th anniversary season. Under the new agreement, 18 regular-season games from the Championship will air on ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU or ESPN Deportes annually in addition to the USL Championship Final. All other matches will be streamed live on ESPN+.
“We’re delighted to continue our relationship with the United Soccer League, and showcase the USL Championship and USL League One competitions across ESPN networks and ESPN+ through this new agreement,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN Senior Vice President, Programming and Acquisitions.
Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed but, according to sources cited by The Athletic, ESPN will pay the USL a rights fee ‘in the low seven-figure range’.
“We are thrilled to continue with ESPN and ESPN+,” said USL executive vice president Court Jeske. “USL is an organisation that aims to put the fans first and we know that supporters across the country will be very pleased with this new three-year agreement and the exposure it brings.”
As well as the USL, ESPN holds rights to a number of top soccer properties, including Major League Soccer (MLS), Italy’s Serie A, England’s FA Cup, and the qualifiers for the UEFA 2020 European Championship.