We’re still two years out from a new league launching, but the search for markets in one, as a USL D3 official tours Lexington, KY and Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends (Low A; Sally League), as a potential USL Division III market.
As announced, USL D3 is an effort by the United Soccer League to fill the void left in USA Soccer’s pyramid at Division III when USL moved up to Division II. The goal of USL D3 is to compete in markets between 150,000 and a million, with play launching in 2019.
And Lexington would seem to fit that sweet spot, as it’s the center of an MSA with roughly a half-million in population. Whitaker Bank Venue is a proven venue, and USL D3 research indicates some local residents are already season-ticket holders to USL teams in Cincinnati and Louisville. So the visit by league VP Steven Short to Lexington was not a surprise to anyone observing the local soccer scene. From the Lexington Herald Leader:
“It was very positive,” Short said of his tour of Lexington. “I heard in several meetings that Lexington is right for professional soccer. Youth soccer is continuing to grow in the region. Obviously, there are some strong clubs in the area, some strong supporter groups. I even learned that several individuals have season tickets to USL teams in Louisville and Cincinnati.”
Short said it was too early to announce a potential ownership group or where a Lexington team might play, but his visit included attending the Tuesday and Wednesday Lexington Legends baseball games at Whitaker Bank Ballpark.
“We’ve got the facilities,” said Lexington Legends president Andy Shea, indicating the team would embrace a soccer tenant. “That is our business model, whether it’s concerts or the wrestling that we’ve had. We can do it. We’re excited. … We’ll be soccer guys for sure.”
U.S. Soccer is really embracing the developmental model, from youth academies to an expansion of Division III teams to working with MLS.
Image: FC Cincinnati hosting Louisville, courtesy FC Cincinnati.