It was a busy offseason in the North American soccer world and before we get to the reshuffling in the lower divisions, let’s get into the two new stadiums opening in MLS. New franchise LAFC is poised to soon open Banc of California Stadium in the location of the old Sports Arena (right across from the LA Coliseum). I am whole-heartedly against MLS’ corrupt expansion tactics which include: two teams in the same market and holding cities hostage for more new stadium taxpayer money. What they are doing to Sacramento is a crime, while their strategy regarding the next expansion team potential in Cincinnati is ridiculous. Yankee Stadium is ok during the foreseeable future for NYCFC, but Nippert Stadium is not ok for Cincy? It’s hard to feel bad for the LA Galaxy (Zlatan!), but they will be working extra hard to sway the neutral with newbies LAFC joining. While the StubHub Center is a beautiful pitch, Banc of California looks amazing from the renderings, plus it will be right in the city as opposed to the Galaxy’s southern location in Carson.
On the other side of the country, DC is finally opening up a home of their own in Audi Field. It won’t be ready until July, but the wait will be worth it as they set-up shop in Buzzards Point, just south of Nationals Park. FC Dallas completes their stadium renovation with the completion of the National Soccer Hall of Fame behind one of the goals. The HOF will include a club section that seats 3,500. An induction ceremony will kick off the new addition in late October. In Minnesota, the Loons will play one more year in perennially borrowed TCF Bank Stadium as they await their facility next season. Finally, the Portland Timbers are beginning a 2-year renovation to Providence Park, which will redo the East Stands. Hard to imagine the best stadium in the country (that’s right) getting even better, but I believe this will do just that. I can’t recommend going to a game here enough.
The troubled NASL has folded and that means a lot of movement below the first division. FC Edmonton, Puerto Rico, New York Cosmos and San Francisco have all folded. Of those four teams, only the last one had a stadium on The List and that won’t change as new team San Francisco City FC begins in the PDL at Kezar Stadium. Both FC Miami and the Jacksonville Armada will drop to the NPSL (a league I’m increasingly interested in thanks to Chattanooga and Detroit). North Carolina FC and Indy Eleven move to the USL, but the Eleven made the stupid move of playing games in nearly empty Lucas Oil Stadium instead of staying at Carroll Stadium.
There are plenty of other changes within the USL, including several new teams. Unfortunately, the following all are going to play at a minor-league ballpark instead of a dedicated soccer facility: Fresno FC, Las Vegas Lights FC, Nashville SC and Atlanta United 2. Loyal readers know I’m not a fan of MLS B squads playing in the USL, but I’m mildly enthused that several of them made good stadium moves this year. Seattle Sounders 2 shifted operations to Tacoma and while they’ll play in Cheney Stadium (ballpark) for the near-term, it sounds like work is progressing towards a stadium and a transition to a Tacoma name. TFC 2 is moving from the bare-bones Ontario Soccer Centre to Lamport Stadium, which has now been added to The List. Also moving is Swope Park Rangers, as they’ll play at a high school stadium in Shawnee, KS. Real Monarchs get to play in the 5,000-seat Zions Bank Stadium, part of a training academy for RSL.
I was glad to see a couple teams on hiatus: Orlando City B and Vancouver Whitecaps 2. However, I am deeply saddened to see the lone American club I support, Rochester Rhinos, go on life support and sit out the 2018 USL season. I wrote about the sad state of the team back in 2010 and it has just gotten worse in the Flour City. While following local soccer (especially among millennials) is increasing rapidly, it never happened in Rochester and a multitude of factors led to dismal support for the team. I may live 300 miles away now, but the glory days of drawing 10,000 to Frontier Field for each Rhinos games is still etched into my happy memories as a youth. I still hope for the best and wish I was there to try and play a tiny part in getting something back the city could be proud of. To those that are local: the Lancers will be playing their NPSL season in Capelli Sport Stadium. I encourage you, research the grass-roots support that has built something special in Detroit, Chattanooga and Shreveport and let’s try to build a culture for the Lancers that grows and Rochesterians can be proud of.