We know United Soccer League reps have worked Minor League Baseball owners during an expansion surge, and the effort may be paying off with another MiLB owner buying into pro soccer — in this case, a Memphis USL team playing as soon as 2019 in AutoZone Park.
Nothing has been announced, even though USL has been on a tear lately in announcing 2019 deals — including Birmingham and Austin — and we know there are other teams in the works for 2019, including a potential entry owned by an MLS team that’s been totally under the radar.
But word eventually gets out, as apparently is happening in the case of Memphis and a team potentially owned by Peter Freund, majority owner of the Pacific Coast League Redbirds. It doesn’t sound like anything is final, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. From The Commercial Appeal:
According to two people with knowledge of the negotiations, the Redbirds ownership group has been in discussions to bring a United Soccer League team to Memphis, which could begin play in AutoZone Park as early as 2019.
Craig Unger, the president, general manager and part owner of the Redbirds, declined to comment on the possibility.
Asked about a report by the soccer website soctakes.com that the addition of a Memphis franchise was a “done deal,” Unger said, “We are aware of that social media report. We are focused completely on the Redbirds historic season and are getting ready to sell playoff tickets.”
What Unger didn’t say: “Are you crazy? That report is nonsense.”
What we find to be totally amazing: Not too long ago USL officials were adamant about requiring new teams to play in soccer-specific stadiums. Now, with a wave of new owners with ties to professional baseball, that requirement seems have fallen by the wayside, with Fresno, Birmingham, Las Vegas and now Memphis all looking at playing out of Minor League Baseball facilities.
Image courtesy Toronto FC II.