By CAITLIN MURRAY
USL Pro’s rapid expansion is blowing through Tulsa, Okla., where a new team will begin play in 2015.
USL Pro announced Wednesday that the Great Plains city will be the league’s 15th team and newest expansion site with the new club being majority-owned by The Tulsa Drillers of Minor League Baseball. Prodigal LLC, who own the other Oklahoma expansion franchise in USL Pro, Oklahoma City Energy FC, will be minority owners.
The yet-unnamed team will play its home games at the Drillers’ home venue, ONEOK Field, which will be converted into a soccer field running from first base toward the left field wall. Seating capacity will be around 7,800. The name of the new team will be part of a “Name Your Team” contest to be launched in coming months.
With Tulsa in the mix, third-division USL Pro now has 15 teams as the league grows rapidly from the mere six founding clubs it had in 2010. Next year will see the debut of the Sacramento Republic and the Oklahoma City Energy, plus a yet-unnamed franchise in Colorado Springs in 2015.
Helping USL Pro’s expansion is an arrangement from last winter that allows Major League Soccer franchises to choose to either field a reserve team in USL Pro or partner with an existing franchise by 2015. To date, Sporting Kansas City, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and Houston Dynamo all have announced USL Pro team partnerships.
Wednesday’s announcement marks the return of pro soccer to the Tulsa area since the Tulsa Roughnecks of the North American Soccer League suspended play nearly 30 years ago. Tulsa has still been home to high-level soccer, with the University of Tulsa continually finishing as one of the best NCAA Division One men’s soccer teams, having won the Conference USA regular season title three years in a row starting in 2007.
“We are very excited to be involved in bringing a high level of professional, outdoor soccer back to the city of Tulsa,” Drillers General Manager Mike Melega said in a statement. “We feel that Tulsa is a great soccer market, and this return is long overdue.”
What do you think of USL Pro expanding to Tulsa? Do you think Tulsa can be a good soccer market? Is the rapid expansion for USL Pro a good thing?
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