TAMPA, Fla. – Up to five new expansion clubs in USL League One could be announced by the end of the year, according to USL President Jake Edwards, to continue the growth of the league in coming year.
“We’ve got up to five expansion announcements towards the end of this year to look forward to in League One,” Edwards told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman in the latest edition of Banter on Wednesday afternoon.
Edwards added that League One currently has 50 markets that are on the list as expansion possibilities across the United States, with the league in active discussions with 15 markets including those that may be near to finalization. The current suspension of the League One season due to the COVID-19 pandemic has changed some plans in terms of those announcements, but that hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm for the potential arrival of professional soccer in new cities this year.
“Our plan was really to use this summer as a bit of a showcase and celebration of those markets with all those expansion announcements for League One,” said Edwards. “Currently it wouldn’t be appropriate to do that as we navigate through [the pandemic] first and foremost, but League One fans will have a lot to cheer about.”
Among the new markets could be Fort Wayne, Indiana, with Twellman telling viewers that his former U.S. Men’s National Team colleague DeMarcus Beasley was leading an effort to bring professional soccer to his hometown. Should that come to fruition, Beasley would be the latest former U.S. Men’s National Team member to become part of the ownership of a USL club, joining Tim Howard at Memphis 901 FC and Landon Donovan at San Diego Loyal SC.
For Edwards, there are numerous reasons for the importance of professional soccer arriving in markets like that around the country, with maybe the most important the touchstone a competitive local club can bring to the broader soccer community.
“There’s a real appetite for soccer, and as you know that first touchpoint with the game is critical,” Edwards told Twellman. “If you don’t have it in your local community, we’ll lose executives, we’ll lose players, we’ll lose people, so that’s what the mission is, bring in those local, community teams around the country.”
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