Professional soccer is returning to Fresno in 2022, as USL League One has accepted an expansion application for Central Valley Fuego Futbol Club, led by the Ruelas family.
Pro soccer was last played in Fresno by Fresno FC of USL Championship, which folded at the end of the 2019 season. (For a time the owner of Fresno FC also owned rights to the Fuego Futbol Club name, complicating things.) While the Fuego name may be familiar to area soccer fans, this isn’t a new incarnation of the old Premier Development League Fresno Fuego. Instead, it’s a new version of pro soccer for Fresno with an old name. That name is important, according to President/General Manager Chris Wilson:
“People were pumped to have Fresno FC come to town, but a lot of them wanted to see the Fuego club promoted to the professional ranks,” Wilson said. “I think that may have been a miss, to be honest.
“The Fuego name means something to Fresno soccer fans. It’s an important brand.”
“The Central Valley is rich in tradition and talent and is a region that deserves professional soccer,” said Owner Juan Ruelas via press statement. “The Fuego represent not only a brand of futbol but also a way of life. The people in this valley are bold, hardworking, and have an unparalleled burning desire to be great. We are proud of our diversity and deep roots. Dale Fuego!”
Fresno FC played out of Chukchansi Park, home of baseball’s Fresno Grizzlies. The plan from the new ownership is to build a training and development center alongside a soccer-specific stadium in the Central Valley region, with construction planned to begin in 2021 for a 2022 debut. The current plan calls for a purchase of the Selland Arena, Valdez Hall and an adjoining parking lot, which would house a 5,000-capacity pop-up stadium Work on that purchase could launch by the end of the week, as the city debates whether to declare Selland Arena as surplus property.
The club’s full crest and brand unveil is set for release in the month of January, with the input of community members and soccer fans playing a vital role in the development process.
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