USL / Lansing United President and CEO Jeremy Sampson
Professional soccer could be coming to Lansing, Michigan, sooner rather than later, as Lansing United becomes the fourth amateur team to publicly express an interest in joining USL Division III, which will kick off its inaugural season in 2019.
Speaking to the Premier Development League, Lansing United President and CEO Jeremy Sampson explained the rationale behind joining the top amateur league in North America for the 2018 campaign, and in doing so joined the likes of South Georgia Tormenta FC, Lane United FC and the Des Moines Menace as teams officially evaluating the move to the next level.
“The PDL is where the best amateur players play each summer, and we wanted to give our players who come to Lansing every year the ability to be seen and help them pursue their dreams of playing professionally,” Sampson told USLPDL.com. “We are also very interested in the USL Division III league. Moving to the PDL allows us to learn the USL organization and allows us to continue those discussions with the USL in regards to Division III.”
Photo courtesy of Sons of Ransom
Founded in 2014, Lansing United will compete in the PDL’s Great Lakes Division for the first time this season. While the club is concentrated on signing players, securing sponsors and gearing up for its debut in May, it is also focused on the future of soccer in the city.
“When looking at the ever-changing landscape of soccer in America there are choices of professional leagues, and what the USL brings is a proven track record of successful franchises that are sustainable,” Sampson told USLD3.com. “As an owner, you want to know that the league you are joining is stable. The vision that I have seen for the USL Division III league is exciting. Steven Short [USL DIII Vice President] and his team have been accessible and very helpful as we have gone through the process.”
Sampson is not the only one in Lansing who sees professional soccer being a benefit for the city, as the Sons of Ransom – Lansing United’s supporters’ group – explained in the summer of 2017.
“While Lansing United already draws fans from the Lansing area, a professional team in Lansing could draw from an even larger geographic region in what's clearly a soccer-hungry state, appealing to people from Jackson, Mount Pleasant and more,” said Eric Walcott, Co-Creator of the Sons of Ransom said. “We've also got a core group of fans that follows Lansing on the road all across the region, giving the team enthusiastic support at home and on the road.”
The USL’s new third-division league, which will provide passionate soccer supporters in new markets with a proven professional experience, has conducted expansion discussions in more than 50 cities across the United States. Announcements regarding official branding, sanctioning and season structure, as well as initial club unveilings, are set to made in the coming weeks and months.
“Lansing is a great sports town,” Sampson said. “Our community supports all Michigan State sports so well. The soccer team recently added lights to their soccer complex and had crowds of 3,500 and just over 4,000 for games this season. Our community has supported a minor league baseball team for over 20 years. We have built a strong following for Lansing United and when you are able to put that together with a city that loves sports and soccer you have a winning combination.”