We have two new teams set for USL 2016 play, as FC Cincinnati will join the league and play out of the University of Cincinnati‘s renovated Nippert Stadium, while MLS’s Philadelphia Union will add a team in Lehigh Valley.
In Cincinnati, the USL effort is being led by owner and CEO Carl Lindner III, the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds. Lindner is currently the co-president and a director of American Financial Group, a Fortune 500 company with more than 100 locations throughout North America and Europe, and Chairman of Great American Insurance Company.
The club also announced that former U.S. Men’s National Team standout John Harkes will be the club’s first head coach. Harkes will be joined by longtime Cincinnati Bengals executive Jeff Berding, who will be the club’s president and general manager as FC Cincinnati begins the process of building a squad for the 2016 season.
“It’s a truly exciting and historic day for the USL and for our sport as we bring professional soccer here to Cincinnati,” USL President Jake Edwards said. “This is a sports town. You have a huge fan-base already playing and watching the sport, we have a world-class stadium outside that you’re going to be playing in next year. We have [here] a passionate, committed and formidable ownership group and executive team, and in [John Harkes] you have a true icon and legend of American soccer as your inaugural head coach.”
In Lehigh Valley, the new USL team will play out of 16,000-seat Goodman Stadium on the campus of Lehigh University and owned by MLS’s Philadelphia Union, led by Jay Sugarman, Chairman, and Nick Sakiewicz, CEO and Operating Partner. Sugarman is Chairman of iStar Financial, a leading real estate finance and investment company in the United States with a $7 billion portfolio. Sakiewicz has been in professional soccer as a player and executive for more than 25 years. He is a founding executive of Major League Soccer and two-time MLS Executive of the Year as President of the Tampa Bay Mutiny and NY/NJ MetroStars. Sakiewicz is cofounder, along with Sugarman, of Keystone Sports & Entertainment and serves as the Philadelphia Union Chief Executive Officer & Operating Partner.
“We are extremely pleased to add yet another ownership group that is experienced in operating highly successful professional sports franchises to the USL family. It’s an honor to return soccer to not only one of the most historic, but also vibrant and growing markets in the United States,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said. “With sophisticated ownership and the passionate sports fans of the Lehigh Valley, this club has the formula for major achievements on and off the field.”