One of three clubs slated to join the United Soccer League in 2018, Fresno FC is a new club with a strong foundation and high hopes for the future.
The club’s strength begins at the top, with an investor group headed by local businessman and team President Ray Beshoff, and a General Manager, Frank Yallop, with decades of soccer experience.
Yallop played for 13 years in England for Ipswich and had 52 caps for the Canadian national team – a team he also coached for three years. He was a head coach in MLS for another 13 years with the L.A. Galaxy, Chicago Fire, and San Jose Earthquakes. He was MLS Manager of the Year in two different stints with San Jose, in 2001 and 2012.
Yallop just stepped down as Manager of Phoenix Rising FC in April, but will serve in Fresno only as General Manager. He hired Sacramento Republic assistant head coach Adam Smith last week as the team’s first head coach. Smith previously served as goalkeeping coach of the MLS’ Portland Timbers. As GM, Yallop will be in charge of the acquisition and development of talent.
Fresno FC has adopted the nickname of The Foxes, or Los Zorros, and will play in the USL’s Western Conference.
At least for the short term, the club will play its home matches at Chukchansi Park, home to baseball’s Fresno Grizzlies (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). The facility was opened in 2002, and designed by Populous.
“We like the relationship that we have with the Grizzlies right now, we’re comfortable here,” Beshoff told the Fresno Bee in July. “There’s potential we could have our own stadium down the road.”
Chukchansi Park holds 12,500 for baseball, but the plan is to cut down the capacity for soccer to 8,400, with the possibility for overflow if needed. The plan is to set the pitch as close to the lower deck as possible for the best possible soccer experience.
“The big thing was making sure someone who buys a ticket to the game is going to have a great view,” Yallop said in a separate interview with the Bee. “There’s nothing worse than going to a soccer game at a baseball stadium and the field’s in the middle of the outfield. It’s too far away.”
The organization hopes to explore the possibility of a new stadium, possibly in downtown Fresno, a few years down the road. “Soccer-specific stadiums are really good” Beshoff told the Bee. “We’ll wait and see how the first season goes then make a determination. There’s a chance we could be here for a long time. There’s a chance we could be here just for a few years.”
In fact, Chukchansi Park already has record of success hosting soccer. Three Liga MX exhibitions have been held there with attendance of more than 15,000 fans, with the record being a 2015 game between Chivas and Atlas, which drew 16,824 fans.
In addition to exhibition games, the stadium has served as home to the Fresno Fuego of the Premier Development League. The Fuego averaged almost 4,000 fans last season, making it the top drawing club in the PDL. The Fresno Freeze of the Women’s Premier Soccer League also play in the stadium.
“I envision that we have a great team, great fans and we really put a stamp that we’re one of the better teams in the U.S.,” said Beshoff in an interview with the bee. “I think it’s a powerful soccer market.”
The USL agreed. With excitement for the team in the community building, and an experienced leadership team in place, The Foxes look set for success in 2018 and beyond.
Image courtesy Fresno FC.
This article first appeared in the weekly Soccer Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here for your free subscription!