USLSoccer.com Staff Report
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
With six new clubs joining the league in 2016, and the first member of 2017’s expansion class having recently unveiled its official name, USL President Jake Edwards told the Sports Business Journal’s Ian Thomas the league’s goals remain high as the new season gets set to kick off this weekend.
“Our ambition is to be the top second division in the world,” Edwards told Thomas in a far-reaching interview. “Look at the [Football League] Championship. It may be considered second division in England, but it’s one of the largest leagues in Europe. Is that a good goal to aim for? Absolutely.”
Entering its sixth season, and the fourth year of its partnership with Major League Soccer, the USL’s business model has attracted numerous new investors over the past three years. Three new independent clubs have joined the league for 2016, bringing ownership groups that have experience in MLB, the NBA and the NBA D-League into an already robust leadership group within the league.
Additionally, new ownership groups were announced for two of the league’s historic franchises. The additional investment brought by the Rochester Rhinos and Charleston Battery is already being seen at both clubs, with upgrades to infrastructure set to boost the fan experiences at Rhinos Stadium and MUSC Health Stadium this season.
With a number of USL clubs, led by Sacramento Republic FC, having aspirations to join Major League Soccer in the future, Edwards said he welcomes teams who aspire to those standards.
“I’d like to challenge all of our clubs to be operating at a level where it starts to look like MLS expansion could work in that market,” Edwards told Thomas. “That can only be good for us as a league, good for our clubs and ultimately good for everyone. It’s just part of the dynamic of soccer in this country.”
With the league having more than doubled in size since 2014, and more expansion announcements expected this year for both 2017 and beyond, Edwards’ plan for long-term growth continues to hold firm to the principles of strong ownership, a strong soccer market and a strong stadium plan.“We’ve been able to move quickly, as you can see in the growth of the size of the league, but we want to make sure we’re building with the future in mind,” Edwards said.