On Tuesday, it was confirmed that a USL Birmingham club will begin play for the 2019 season. More details on branding and a home venue are to be announced at a later date.
Birmingham will begin play in the USL in 2019, but a Premier Development League (PDL) season will precede in 2018. This makes Birmingham the first USL expansion club to be confirmed for entry in 2019.
“The USL continues to lead the growth of professional soccer across the country and we are thrilled to announce Birmingham as our newest market,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. “With the increasing popularity and demand for professional soccer across the country, more and more fans recognize the high level of competition and excitement of the USL. We continue toward our goal of becoming one of the top Division II leagues in the world, on par with the English Championship, Liga Adelante and 2. Bundesliga. We will achieve that goal by continuing to deliver a first-class soccer experience for fans, players and communities like Birmingham by providing unparalleled league support to all our clubs, and building one of the best ownership groups in professional soccer.
“Birmingham is an ideal market for USL, clicking off all of the criteria we require in a new expansion market,” continued Papadakis. “We welcome the club’s owners to the USL family, and are excited for the plans they have in store for the Magic City. Soccer fans in Birmingham will experience all the excitement of a first-class professional club, with the full support of the USL league office. Congratulations to the entire team in Birmingham. We look forward to their USL debut in 2019.”
Birmingham’s ownership contingent will feature Jeff Logan, a co-owner of baseball’s Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League). Along with Logan, the ownership group includes James Outland, founding and managing partner of New Capital Partners; and Lee Styslinger, III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec, Inc.
“The USL’s selection of Birmingham speaks directly to our recognition as a world-class sports city,” Mayor William Bell said in a statement. “We are very appreciative of the investment by Mr. Logan, Mr. Outland and Mr. Styslinger in bringing professional soccer to the City, and we look forward to working with them and the USL leadership to ensure that we field a team that will bring us many championships.”
Morgan Copes, co-founder of the Birmingham Hammers, has been appointed to the role of vice president USL Birmingham. He will also serve as the team’s main point of contact.
The club is expected to announce additional details in the future, including the development of its name, crest, and other branding features. It is also expected to reveal plans for a home venue down the road, with the preferred site being in the city’s downtown.
“We want to be in or near the center of the city and have walkable amenities nearby. That is our goal, and we are working on it,” said Copes in a statement. “Having a first-rate match day experience for our supporters is a high priority for us.”
Where could the team play? Short term, there is always the baseball team’s home, Regions Field. In the long term, the mayor is pushing for a 174-million, 45,000-55,000-seat open-air stadium next to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. USL in a 55-000-seat venue may be a little overkill, however.
Image courtesy USL.