The USL Division III expansion team visited Northeast markets for the first time since the league’s formal launch announcement in April, and returned from the region eager to bring a proven professional soccer experience to each city following encouraging meetings.
From Nov. 6-10, league executives met with city officials and business leaders in four cities – beginning in Providence, Rhode Island, before making their way north to Worcester, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine – to discuss the impact a professional soccer club can have on the community.
The new third-division league’s aim is to provide passionate fans in markets currently without direct access to professional soccer, with a club to call their own. USL Division III is targeting cities ranging in population from 150,000 to one million for expansion.
USL DIII, which will kick off its inaugural season in 2019, is currently in expansion discussions with more than 50 markets across the United States. Including its trip to the Northeast, the DIII expansion team has visited 23 different cities and has plans to visit more markets in the coming months.
“The City of Providence boasts being a small city with huge impact and has garnered many accolades," USL DIII Vice President Steven Short said. "The downtown core is diverse, vibrant and is accustomed to hosting numerous events. The city continues to increase its offering, making it a tremendous opportunity for professional soccer in New England.
"While it may be the smallest state in the U.S., Providence certainly packs a punch when it comes to soccer and professional sports. The city is home to collegiate programs, including Brown University of the Ivy League and Providence College of the Big East, that continue to produce athletes ready for the pro ranks. A great example is Providence’s Julian Gressel, who was announced as the 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year.
"Providence has certainly exhibited its ability to support professional sports, too, as the city’s teams are branded alongside their affiliate sides, Pawtucket Red Sox (MiLB Triple-A affiliate of the Red Sox) and the Providence Bruins (AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins).”
“New England’s second-largest city and a five-time recipient of the All-America City Awards, Worcester is home to 12 colleges and universities and more than 5,000 city-based businesses," Short said. "The city’s streets are adorned with historical statues paying tribute to the rich history of the city, as well as public art exhibits which contribute to the moniker of Worcester as “The Creative City.”
"Home to the Worcester Railers (ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers) and Worcester Bravehearts (Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England), the city of Worcester continues to provide family-friendly and affordable sporting entertainment for its residents.
"Located in the heart of Massachusetts, Worcester remains a hub for the USL Division III in New England.”
“A former leader in the global textile industry, Manchester has transformed into a hive city for technology and up-and-coming professionals, embracing its past while sprinting forward," Short said. "As witnessed in the redevelopment of the riverfront Mill District and the increasing demands for urban dwelling, the city’s focus remains on attracting companies to the city to retain the abundance of talent found in Manchester.
"Professional sports in Manchester continue to draw fans, as the city is home to the Manchester Monarchs (ECHL Affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings) and New Hampshire FisherCats (MiLB Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays), both of which draw an average of 3,500 and 4,700, respectively, per game.
"As a soccer market, Manchester’s youth scene continues to grow through its geographic-based leagues. Combined with the demographics of the city and continuous desire to attract new talent, the city is poised for professional soccer.”
“Portland is a port town rich in history, culture, technology, tourism and professional sports," Short said. "Currently home to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA G-League, Portland Sea Dogs of MiLB and Maine Mariners of the ECHL, Portland’s pro scene is cast in success. The Sea Dogs are ranked fourth in Eastern League attendance and the Maine Red Claws remain one of the few independently-owned NBA G-League teams.
"The soccer scene in Portland continues to thrive due to the strength of its local amateur and youth scene. Anchored by the GPS Portland Phoenix of the PDL, Seacoast United and Global Premier Soccer (GPS), which boasts an extended partnership with Bayern Munich of the German Bundesliga, the game continues to grow in Portland. A USL Division III professional side will provide the residents and players of all ages with a capstone team.”