Another westward move by the United Soccer League, as league officials announce a new Fresno USL expansion team, though there are plenty of details to be worked out.
The team will be owned by lead investor Ray Beshoff, an owner of Mercedes-Benz of Fresno, who says he is paying an expansion fee in excess of $5 million to enter the Division II league. That gets him in the door; the next step will be developing a soccer-specific facility at some point down the road. That is unlikely to happen in the 2018 season, so the team will need to seek a temporary home.
A prime contender is Bulldog Stadium at Fresno State. Indeed, there are indications that Beschoff and university officials already negotiating a lease there. Another potential temporary home: Chukchansi Park, home of the Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), which already has seen success as home of the Fresno Fuego, a PDL team. USL has been telling new teams they must be playing in a soccer-specific facility, but that’s not been universally enforced. The new Reno team launched this season plays at a ballpark, Greater Nevada Field, as do USL teams in Tulsa, Harrisburg and Louisville. From the Fresno Bee:
“Fresno is a great location for other teams in proximity,” USL Vice President Leonardo Santiago said. “From a league standpoint competitively, we’re looking to build those rivalries city to city, where clubs and supporters don’t have to travel very far to get more of those derby games.”
“As we move into new markets, that (soccer-specific) venue is an important piece,” Santiago said. “It can be an existing place that can showcase soccer the right way or a new development.”
It’s now a top priority for Beshoff.
Fresno would be the 32nd team in the USL, joining Nashville SC for the 2018 season.
Image courtesy Fire Squad Fresno, the PDL team’s supporter group.