Following the announcement of Greenville Pro Soccer as the league’s third founding member, USL Division III executives will visit Lakeland, Florida, on March 21 to evaluate the potential for a professional soccer team in the city.
Lakeland is home to the Lakeland Tropics, which competes in the Premier Development League – the top pre-professional league in North America – and will be the 25th different market visited by USL Division III ahead of its inaugural season in 2019.
“We are eager to meet with local leaders, as well as the Lakeland Tropics ownership group, as we continue to work toward the launch of USL Division III next spring,” USL DIII Vice President Steven Short told USLD3.com. “We believe the market could be an ideal fit for the league’s Southeast region given the support we’ve seen the Tropics receive locally over the past year.”
The Lakeland-Winter Haven market boasts a population of more than 650,000 and is the corporate headquarters of Southeast grocery store chain Publix. The city has multiple sports teams, including the Lakeland Magic (NBA G-League affiliate), Lakeland Flying Tigers (High-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers) and Florida Tarpons (American Arena League), as well as competitive collegiate athletics via Southeastern University – which competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
In addition, soccer is not new to the market, as Florida Tropics SC – which competes in the Major Arena Soccer League – was founded in 2016. The PDL team also burst onto the scene during the 2017 PDL season, averaging 2,629 fans per game en route to finishing the season with a 9-3-2 overall record in the Southeast Division. For its inaugural game of the 2017 season, the Tropics welcomed 6,112 fans to Bryant Stadium.