USL Super League promises women soccer panache



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USL launches Super League Image: USL

The United Soccer League (USL) Super League has announced the initial group of markets that will make world-class professional women’s soccer accessible for more players, more fans and more communities across the United States.

‘USL’ stated that set to kick off in August 2024, the USL Super League intends to launch as a first division league, reflecting its commitment to the highest standards in American soccer and a collective vision to be a global leader in women’s soccer on and off the field. The USL Super League will follow U.S. Soccer’s sanctioning process.

Tampa (US)-based the United Soccer League (USL) is the largest professional soccer organization in North America, possessing nearly a decade of experience in bringing the world’s game to communities across the United States and Canada.

The USL Super League is a planned Division I professional women’s soccer league in the United States. The league will be owned and operated by the United Soccer League (USL). Originally planning to launch in August 2023, it is now slated to begin play in August 2024.

The USL Super League helps address the opportunity gap between men’s and women’s professional soccer in the United States, home of the world’s most successful women’s national team. There are currently 101 professional men’s soccer teams and 12 professional women’s soccer teams in the United States.

Chicago (US)-based the United States Soccer Federation, commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is a 501 nonprofit organization and the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States.

Said Alec Papadakis, USL CEO, “Today (May 16th) marks a major milestone for the United Soccer League as we take another step in building an integrated women’s soccer network unlike any other. Our aim is to make the USL Super League globally recognized and admired for its financial stability, operational excellence, community building, and high-level competition. We are establishing and growing our national footprint while ensuring that all our teams are owners or primary tenants of a soccer stadium. We are aligning our calendar and roster rules with the global game. With these objectives in mind, we will continue to demonstrate our commitment to equitable treatment of our men’s and women’s pathways, ultimately featuring clubs competing in all divisions and bringing soccer closer to home in markets across the entire country. The USL Super League will sit at the top of our women’s pyramid with strong ownership groups, modern stadiums and passionate fans that will deliver immediate viability and long-term sustainability.”

‘USL’ further stated that the USL Super League will provide a differentiated experience that includes playing on the international calendar and operating a connected women’s pathway from youth to professional. The “Fall-to-Summer” calendar – unique in American soccer – aligns the USL Super League with the global game and prioritizes player welfare and performance. The youth-to-pro pathway creates development and advancement opportunities for the players, coaches, referees, and the front office employees while uniting communities and growing the sport at all levels across United States.

The USL Super League will have 10-12 teams in its inaugural 2024 season, the first group of which are listed below.

Following the inaugural season, the USL Super League will strategically expand its national footprint. Multiple expansion teams are confirmed to join the league upon completion of their stadium and infrastructure projects, some of which are also listed below.

In the coming months, the USL Super League will announce additional markets whose clubs will play in the inaugural season, and additional markets for future expansion.

Stated Amanda Vandervort, USL Super League President, “We’re excited to share the initial group of USL Super League markets that will bring professional women’s soccer closer to home for fans and players across America. Our aim is to significantly expand opportunities in women’s soccer through strategic growth, build a pathway that connects talent with opportunity and engage communities by celebrating a universal passion for the game expressed through local culture. The USL Super League aspires to be a global leader in women’s football, and we look forward to working together with all stakeholders to help shape the future of the game for women and girls in our country, across the region and around the world. We will actively advocate for new, compelling club competitions that drive visibility and value, and we offer our unwavering support for U.S. Soccer’s bid to co-host the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
 

Initial Markets for the Inaugural 2024 Season (more TBA in coming months):

  • Charlotte, North Carolina – The USL Super League Carolina will add to the storied history of women’s soccer across the region. The team will play its home matches in the historic 10,500-capacity American Legion Memorial Stadium, which is located in Charlotte’s urban core, was renovated in 2021 and is ideally laid out for top-level soccer matches. Jim McPhilliamy will lead the formation of the club’s ownership group, with Dan DiMicco as the principal owner, and the aim of reflecting the entire spirit of the USL Super League;
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas – The USL Super League Dallas-Fort Worth, led by the Neil Family, will be the first professional women’s soccer team in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Neil family represents over 40 years of Real Estate Investment Banking, current, and former athletes in US Soccer/US Deaf Soccer and professional baseball, sports tech entrepreneurship, advertising, and decades spent in support of youth sports in North Texas. Multiple stadium options are being considered with the location to be announced in the coming months;
  • Lexington, Kentucky – Led by the Lexington Sporting Club owner Bill Shively and his wife, Dixiana Farm (horse breeding farm) Co-owner Donna Shively, along with business partner Stephen Dawahare, Super League Lexington will realize the club’s ambition to provide the full women’s soccer pathway, including a USL Academy team and a USL W League team. As part of its commitment to providing the best experience for the community, the club is currently working to bring a 6,500-seat stadium and a training and medical complex to the Commonwealth. (There are four States in the United States that call themselves Commonwealths: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The distinction is in the name alone);
  • Phoenix, Arizona – Led by the USL Championship team Phoenix Rising FC ownership group, the USL Super League Phoenix will bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer to Arizona and will play at their new, centrally located and easily accessible stadium location, just North of the Sky Harbor International Airport;
  • Spokane, WashingtonAequus Sports, LLC, an investor group led by Spokane natives Ryan Harnetiaux, a longtime business strategist, and Katie Harnetiaux, a global business leader for Amazon North America. The Super League Spokane will expand the club’s footprint to include both men’s and women’s professional soccer. The club will play in a new 5,500 seat stadium currently under construction and located in the North Bank Arts and Entertainment District in Baltimore, Maryland;
  • Tampa Bay, Florida – Led by the local real-estate developer Darryl Shaw, restaurateur and former professional sports team owner David Laxer and tech executive Jeff Fox, the USL Super League Tampa Bay will bring the highest level of professional women’s sports to the region. The ownership group is exploring temporary stadium sites for the inaugural 2024 season with long-term plans to build a centrally located soccer-specific stadium for the USL Super League team to call home;
  • Tucson, Arizona – Led by the USL League Two team FC Tucson owner and lifelong local soccer leader Jon Pearlman and RightSure Insurance founder, bestselling author and club Chairperson Jeff Arnold, the USL Super League Tucson will bring the highest level of professional women’s soccer to the ‘Old Pueblo’. Multiple stadium options are being considered and the location will be announced in the coming months; and
  • Washington, D.C.Attain Sports and Entertainment (AS&E), led by its Founder and head honcho Greg Baroni and in partnership with the Major League Soccer (MLS) team D.C. United, will add another exciting chapter to the remarkable history of major league sports in the Washington, D.C. area. With a player-centric and values-driven focus, Super League Washington, D.C. will be a platform to connect diverse communities and create impact through the power of sports.

 

Initial Markets for Subsequent Seasons (pending completion of a stadium project):

  • Chattanooga, Tennessee – Led by international real estate developer Robert ‘Bob’ Martino, who is also the founder of the USL League One team Chattanooga Red Wolves SC, the USL Super League Chattanooga will advance professional soccer in ‘The Scenic City’. Martino built Tennessee’s first soccer-specific stadium – the 2,500-capacity CHI Memorial Stadium, home of Chattanooga’s first professional men’s soccer team. The USL Super League Chattanooga will create new opportunities for the highest level of women’s soccer in the region. Following the 2023 men’s season, the management will be making significant upgrades and an expansion to the stadium;
  • Indianapolis, Indiana – Led by the USL Championship team Indy Eleven Founder and Chairman Ersal Ozdemir and their Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Greg Stremlaw, the USL Super League Indianapolis will play its home matches at a 20,000-seat stadium being built as part of an over $1 billion transformational development project in downtown Indianapolis. The 20,000-capacity Eleven Park will serve as a permanent home for both the Indy Eleven’s Super League team as well as their USL Championship men’s professional team;
  • Jacksonville, Florida – Led by a local ownership group that includes the National Football League (NFL) star and Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida, Tim Tebow, local entrepreneurs Ricky Caplin and Tony Allegretti, and experienced club administrator Steve Livingstone, the USL Super League Jacksonville will expand the club’s footprint to include both women’s and men’s professional soccer. The club is currently exploring multiple stadium and facilities development options to further expand access and opportunity across the region;
  • Madison, Wisconsin – Led by the USL League One team Forward Madison FC ownership group, the Super League Madison will extend the City’s world-renowned soccer culture to the women’s game for the first time. The team, which would be the first top-tier professional women’s sports team in Wisconsin, will play at the 5,000-capacity Breese Stevens Field in downtown Madison; and
  • Oakland, California – Led by the USL Championship team Oakland Roots SC and Oakland Soul (brand-new women’s team) ownership group, the USL Super League Oakland will embody the club’s mission-led focus to harness the power of sport as a force for social good by extending its women’s pathway into the professional ranks as soon as the club has a venue to accommodate two professional teams. The ownership group recently submitted a proposal for an interim stadium in East Oakland on the Malibu site to the City, Alameda County and the Joint Powers Authority (JPA).

 

Partnerships with Legends, Octagon and SPORTFIVE

To ensure its long-term sustainability and deliver on its business goals, the USL Super League is partnering with leading global agencies to help drive its media and commercial interests.

New York (US)-based Legends, a leading global premium experiences company, will support the USL Super League’s partnership sales and stadium commercial opportunities. Legends’ expansive experience in worldwide football includes the LaLiga team FC Barcelona (Spain), the Premier League teams Liverpool F.C. (UK), Manchester City F.C. (UK), the LaLiga team Real Madrid CF (Spain), and U.S. Soccer, among others.

Tysons (US)-based the Octagon, a global consulting company with more than $14 billion in media rights under advisory, will help manage the USL Super League’s domestic media rights sales process.

Hamburg (Germany)-based the global sports marketing agency SPORTFIVE will help the USL Super League secure key international media distribution partnerships across television and digital platforms. The SPORTFIVE also assists with USL’s sports betting streaming and data partnerships globally.

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