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USL Series: Explanations

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In conjunction with Brian Quarstad of Inside Minnesota Soccer, MLS Talk and the Kartik Report present the USL at a Crossroad series.

Part one is here

Some excerpts from our article with commentary:

In 1986 the professional soccer landscape in the US looked bleak. The last of the North American Soccer League (NASL) teams, that looked so promising for a few brief years in the late 70’s, were all gone.

The collapse of the NASL was the “end” it appeared for the sport. After the NASL collapsed, despite playing youth soccer, I didn’t follow the game again until 1988 and that was because of the APSL.

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As a Rowdies executive, Marcos also grew the Tampa Bay Youth Soccer Association to a statewide level as the Florida Youth Soccer Association and was responsible for the first modern cooperative agreement between an American club and a top foreign club: an affiliate arrangement between the Rowdies and Sao Paulo of Brazil.

This work benefited me personally. A unified Florida youth structure which I played in as well as the opportunity to see Sao Paulo and Ipswich Town (then managed by Bobby Robson) come to Fort Lauderdale as part of this agreement. As great as the NASL was, seeing perhaps the top teams from abroad come to the US, thanks to Marcos made a lasting impression that remains today.

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In April 1999, the USL announced Umbro had purchased another 30% of the USL, bringing their portion of ownership to 60%, while Signal Apparel and Riddell Sports each held 15%. Marcos retained 10%.

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Several USL teams even built soccer specific stadiums, yet they have failed to receive the recognition from many in the American soccer community that MLS sides have for their SSS building program.

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In 1999, Blackbaud Stadium, the first modern SSS in the United States, was built for the Charleston Battery. The facility, modeled after lower league grounds from England has been phenomenally successful. Columbus Crew of MLS built a soccer specific stadium that opened a few weeks after Blackbaud.

We felt it was important to correct the rampant mis-information about Crew Stadium being the oldest SSS in the country. Firstly, a SSS was built in the old ASL days but even if you consider that “ancient” history, the football press in the United States continues to cite Crew Stadium as the first SSS. Perhaps it can be called “the first SSS to seat over 20,000,” but it was not the first SSS in this modern era.

Having visited Blackbaud, it is probably more of a traditional football ground than almost anything built in MLS until Toyota Park opened in 2005. The Charleston stadium was actually modeled after football grounds in England, unlike many MLS stadiums which seem to be modled after High School (American Football) Stadiums.

Toyota Park, and Dick’s Spoting Good’s Park are proper grounds, but some of the other SSS passed off by MLS, ESPN and others in the soccer press as revolutionary, are really not.

This having been said, MLS must be applauded for developing its own grounds, regardless of the look and feel and developing strong streams of revenue which is league controlled. Many USL clubs have failed to follow the examples of  MLS , Charleston and Rochester in this regard.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jason
    August 31, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    If you’re going to go there…Virginia Beach SportsPlex.

    And the “football press” (poser) usually qualifies it with “major-league,” but you can hear what you want to hear.

  2. August 31, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Good point Jason on Virginia Beach. They actually broke ground first on the Sportsplex but I believe it opened right after Blackbaud. But yes, it was the first SSS approved in the modern era (again ASL in 1928 and the early 30s had some SSS).

    As far as the “major league” qualifier, that is not always the case. I’ll find some examples in the near future, but often Crew Stadium is referred to as the “first SSS in the US.” Sometimes it is referred to as the first one in MLS which is factual but often it is said to be the first one in the US which is either repeated out of ignorance (which is okay) or hubris (which is not okay).

  3. Rex
    August 31, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    I didnt even know Blackbaud existed until the Dynamo played their for the Open Cup. It looked like a really cool place.

    Although MLS SSS are the main way for MLS owners to make $$$, I consider them a failure. Its all about location. People dont realize the impact of building stadiums in subburbs on a growing league looking for recondition. Downtown stadiums give a teams legitimacy.

  4. Lee
    August 31, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Ipswich under Sir Bobby Robson. Classic, and a treat no doubt!

  5. MJ
    August 31, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    What was F. Marcos role with the Rowdies?

  6. August 31, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Charles Schwab actually built the first SSS in America didn’t he?

  7. Anonymous
    August 31, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    It looks like Miami FC, Carolina, Montreal, Vancouver and a bunch of other teams are leaving USL. Crazy stuff.

  8. Fan
    September 1, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Oh, so the stadiums don’t count if you don’t like them. At least you are consistent in your intention to never look at something related to MLS fairly.

  9. September 1, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    No Blackbaud is older. That’s a fact.

    If I don’t look at MLS matters fairly, how would you explain this post which by the way made me more enemies than anything else I have done since I began blogging:

    http://www.majorleaguesoccertalk.com/british-media-doesnt-get-it-2/1591

  10. September 4, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    Great update!!!

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