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Orlando City’s USL franchise to rebrand, relocate to Louisville

Louisville City FC logo

By MIKE GRAMAJO

After months of negotiations between Orlando City president Phil Rawlins and minority owner Wayne Estopinal, Orlando’s USL Pro franchise is officially relocating to Kentucky. Louisville City FC is expected to begin play in 2015.

Estiponal, a Louisville architect, will become majority owner, while Orlando City will retain a minority ownership interest in the USL franchise. Louisville will also function as Orlando City’s USL affiliate, allowing Orlando to loan at least four players per season to Louisville.

“We are excited for the future of pro soccer in Louisville,” Rawlins said in a statement. “It’s a perfect USL Pro marketplace. I feel strongly that Louisville will be a successful team both on and off the field for years to come.”

The Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Tulsa Roughnecks, and St. Louis FC will join USL Pro next season, expanding USL Pro to 18 teams.

Louisville City will play its home matches at Slugger Field, home of the Triple-A minor league baseball team Louisville Bats.

Estopinal told people in the audience that 278 season ticket deposits have already been made prior to the announcement.

James O’Connor, currently an Orlando City player and assistant coach, will become Louisville’s head coach, effective immediately.

“For some of our younger players now, next year they’ll end up in Louisville,” OCSC head coach Adrian Heath told SBI. “Even some of the players we draft next year will go [to Louisville].”

The Lions will retain their current affiliation with Sporting Kansas City until the end of the 2014 season.

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What do you think of this news? Excited to see Louisville finally get a professional soccer team?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. So San Antonio, Sacramento, Vegas, Minneapolis, Detroit want MLS but who is NASL after, and uslpro.
    Will NASL go more west, will uslpro go nationwide due to MLS and cheaper to run.
    Will all leagues do west and east in irder to work with MLS and make it more interesting and cheaper for teams.
    NASL needs west and east, but if uslpro hits 30 to 40 teams why not have conferences and divisions.

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  2. I would have much rather preferred Derby City FC, River City FC or Gonzo Louisville as the team name but Louisville City FC will have to do. I just drove by U of L new stadium that is half built now today as well. Pretty exciting time for soccer fans in The Ville!

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  3. “The Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Tulsa Roughnecks, and ……..” Did anyone else cringe when they read those team names? Sooooooooo 1991.

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  4. MLS claiming that pro / rel is decades away is just a folly.

    This country is too big and soccer is getting so popular that pro / rel could be implemented this decade.

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      • As long as the big markets are spending the money that they have this shouldn’t be an issue. With a pro/rel system the salary cap would need to be relaxed.

      • salary cap is the least of the issues – the MLS owners have dropped a lot of money into starting the league and the current franchise fees are exhorbinant. There is no way that the MLS ownership group will agree to lose that economic advantage.

      • I think that’s the whole point though, a league built on parity. If the league models itself off of European leagues, how many teams that already struggle for attendance would survive? The league is exciting because any team that makes play offs has a legitimate shot and winning the MLS cup.

      • Also, in European leagues the top teams are often subsidized quite a bit, some more than others. That wouldn’t be the case here so it would be more competitive in the sense that the domestic market for players wouldn’t be as distorted as the global market for players.

      • Yep the issue has never been having enough teams to do it. The issue is a pro league in the United States is never going to relegate a team to the minor leagues. Particularly in a growing league where teams have just paid 100 million dollars for the right to play.

      • Well, I guess we’ll all enjoy watching the Revolution in their current state, perpetually.

      • +1. I don’t think any league anywhere will ever voluntarily adopt this system. It’s entrenched elsewhere, having been implemented for competitive reasons decades before soccer was a really lucrative sport. Kind of a shame, but money runs the show now and this is just to risky for clubs.

    • When second division clubs in the US have all their infrastructure in place AND are valued at over $100 million minimum….. then the pro/rel debate can take place.

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    • Promotion and relegation will NEVER happen in the US. Not 5 years from now not 100 years from now. However what could and probably will eventually happen is having two 1st division leagues in the US. A West and an East league. both 1st division.

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  5. Don’t let the 278 throw you. That’s in less than 24 hours after the announcement of the franchise, and at $50 a pop (same going rate as ATL’s MLS side, I think?). We just had the kick-off press conference. We are stoked and ready to go.

    USL prez Tim Holt (I wanted to scream “TIM HOLT!” so badly) stated that several more expansion announcements are coming later this year. I expect that a bunch of those will be MLS B teams.

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      • A total joke using tax payers dollars for slugger field improvements. The mayor putting it in budget waste of money. Do it private if you want it. This will last 2 years and be gone. As Jim Rome says get your Orange slices and capri sun.

    • As a guy who’s followed Holt and the USL for about 10 years, seems to me like you’re way enamored with him. He’s a smart, shrewd guy-no doubt.

      I hope that USL has learned from the MISL debacle and clubs like VSI and Phoenix but I’m not so sure (I have serious doubts about Colorado Springs)…

      I’m really curious to see how the MLS reserve sides integrate into USLPRO. Should be exciting.

      I would have probably been more inclined to shout “Uncle Phil”

      Reply

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