USL Series: Explanations
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.