United Soccer League a tour de force


USL on expansion route Image: USL

There will be a new team to root for in town (Santa Barbara) as the Santa Barbara Sky FC is the latest expansion club in the USL League One.

‘keyt.com’ stated that the announcement was made by the United Soccer League (USL) at Santa Barbara’s Moxi where Sky FC unveiled its colors and crest.

The Santa Barbara Sky FC is a planned American professional soccer team based in Santa Barbara, California. First announced in 2022, the team plans to play in USL League One beginning in 2024.

The USL League One is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States that had its inaugural season in 2019. The Division III league is operated by United Soccer League, the same group that operates the Division II USL Championship and other leagues.

‘keyt.com’ further stated that the team will begin play in 2024 and there will also be a Santa Barbara Sky women’s professional team with more details about that club coming in the next several months.

Santa Barbara Sky FC will play their home games at the La Playa Stadium at Santa Barbara City College and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN +.

The 10,000-capacity La Playa Stadium is the on campus stadium for Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, California, United States. It serves as the home venue for the Santa Barbara City College Vaqueros football, soccer and track and field teams. The stadium also serves as the venue for the college graduation ceremonies.

Former Liverpool F.C. (UK) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Peter Moore is the club’s founding investor.

Exclusive Partnership

‘WDSU NEWS’ stated that the United Soccer League announced recently that it has entered into an exclusive partnership with USL NOLA, a group dedicated to bringing a professional soccer club to Greater New Orleans (US) with the intent to launch a USL Championship men’s team by 2025 and a USL Super League women’s team.

Leading USL NOLA are Principals Warren Smith and Jamie Guin, who collectively have amassed an impressive list of success stories in the soccer and sports industry.

‘WDSU NEWS’ further stated that Smith and Guin have spent the past six months meeting with community and soccer leaders while identifying potential stadium solutions for its home matches.

In the weeks ahead, the group looks to gather community feedback on club identity, possible stadium locations, matchday experience, and more.

Remarked Justin Papadakis, USL Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Chief Real Estate Officer, “It’s no secret that New Orleans is primed, ready and probably overdue for professional soccer. It’s a global destination with unmatched heritage, culture and local pride – qualities that perfectly match a community-focused USL Championship club.”

Justin Papadakis, COO and Chief Real Estate Officer, United Soccer League, will be one of the Speakers at the Coliseum Summit US to be held at the Dignity Health Sports Park, Los Angeles, from September 28th-29th, 2022.

Warren Smith and Jamie Guin are extraordinary, proven club builders, and the USL are excited to pursue their vision with USL NOLA and the people of New Orleans. Smith has co-founded numerous professional sports teams and has led the Sacramento Republic FC and San Diego Loyal SC through their launches and first seasons in the USL Championship. Under Smith’s helm, Republic FC captured worldwide attention for breaking USL Championship regular-season attendance and winning the USL Cup in its inaugural season. At Loyal SC, Smith helped the club establish its unwavering commitment to giving back to San Diego, launching numerous award-winning initiatives to make a difference on and off the pitch.

Said Smith, “There is no better time than now to be a soccer fan in the United States. As North America gears up to host the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup™, I am thrilled to help NOLA create a club that reflects and represents the City while furthering gender equity in sports. In my short time here, I have learned how passionate people are about this community, and I look forward to working with them to create something unique and special that they can love as their own.”

Guin is a native New Orleanian and sports industry veteran with deep ties to the region. Guin began his sports career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with the New Orleans Hornets and Pelicans and went on to play a leading commercial leadership role in soccer projects such as the Major League Soccer (MLS) teams Sporting Kansas City, Los Angeles FC and Columbus Crew. In addition to his MLS body of work, Guin was part of the executive commercial leadership team for two of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) recent West Coast projects such as the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers 70,000-capacity SoFi Stadium project in Inglewood, California, and the NFL team Las Vegas Raiders 65,000-capacity Allegiant Stadium project in Paradise, Nevada.

Enthused Guin, “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of the efforts to bring professional soccer to the Crescent City. As someone who has been humbled and fortunate to grow up in the Gulf South region and work in the professional sports industry my entire career, this project inspires me personally and professionally.”

USL NOLA is partnering with Greater New Orleans, Inc., the regional economic development organization, to build synergies with the local business community and market.

Maintained Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc., “Modern soccer came to America via New Orleans in the 1850s, so it is fitting and exciting that we now have the chance to host a professional team from the USL Championship league. As with our other pro teams, this new franchise will add to the national profile and heft of Greater New Orleans. The fact that the effort is being led by a team with a history of success across the country, and with the support of GNO, Inc. and the community, makes us very optimistic about its potential for success.”

Added Hecht, “USL NOLA will launch an extensive outreach campaign to gather community input from New Orleanians to learn and guide the club in its efforts. USL NOLA intends to co-create the club with the community to ensure the organization embodies the Greater New Orleans’ lively spirit and energy. A series of fan engagement sessions hosted by USL NOLA will play a vital role in the club’s development.”

About USL impacting more than 200 communities, the United Soccer League (USL) is the largest professional soccer organization in North America.

The USL is the first and only soccer organization in the United States to build a youth-to-professional pathway for both women and men within one ecosystem. That structure includes three professional leagues: USL Championship (men), USL Super League (women) and USL League One (men), two national pre-professional leagues: USL League Two (men) and W League (women), and two national youth leagues: USL Academy and Super Y League. The USL is shaping the future of soccer in America, leading the push for equality between men’s and women’s soccer, and aligning with the global game while igniting passionate fan bases across the country.

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