Photo courtesy of West Texas A&M Athletics
West Texas A&M University Men’s Soccer Head Coach Butch Lauffer knows that in order for the United Soccer League’s new third-division league to succeed, providing a quality product to new markets while also reducing travel costs for the teams and fans is vital.
In August, Amarillo Globe-News reported that Amarillo ballpark, a future downtown stadium, will likely be designed to accommodate a potential USL team. While the USL’s DIII expansion team has been in discussions with more than 40 markets across the nation, DIII Vice President Steven Short has stated the league’s intentions of building a regional model in order to reduce travel costs for clubs and fans who want to watch their team on the road.
“For Lubbock and Amarillo, you’re five to five-and-a-half hours from Dallas, if you want to see FC Dallas play. If you want to go to Denver and watch the Rapids play, you’re eight hours away. You have the Oklahoma City Energy, which is four hours away,” Lauffer told USLD3.com.
“I think anything that you could create where there would be some type of hometown following, where people didn’t have to drive a minimum of four hours from Lubbock or Amarillo, would be beneficial. Just from an economic perspective of people’s time and money from traveling, I think anything you could do where they don’t have to travel upwards of four hours would be beneficial.”
Lauffer has led the men’s team at West Texas A&M, situated in between potential expansion markets in Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas, for 27 seasons. He has garnered more than 300 wins in his distinguished career and has coached at the national level for the U.S. Soccer Federation. He also serves as the Director of Soccer for the Amarillo Drifters Soccer Association and as a member of the North and South Texas Olympic Development program.
As the United Soccer League’s new third-division league eyes expansion to many markets across the United States, Short has also stated the league’s goal of providing new markets with a proven professional soccer experience.
“Anything that can provide extra avenues for the American player to play for longer periods of time at a higher level with quality training and quality games is going to do nothing but raise the level of standard for American soccer,” Lauffer said. “So, in both cities, the potential could be very good.”
In Lauffer’s eyes, both Amarillo and Lubbock would be good cities for a professional team, as they already have strong athletic bases and are known to support when a quality product is available.
“I think you have two towns that are sports-minded, in general, having Texas Tech in Lubbock and West Texas A&M in Canyon – which is right outside of Amarillo,” Lauffer said. “Anything that you could sprinkle across those towns, you could create those rivalries.”