Tampa Bay Rowdies & Ottawa Fury FC Join USL for 2017 Season
The USL welcomes three new teams for its 2017 campaign, with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Ottawa Fury FC notably joining from the NASL. The rise of the USL has seen attendance increase by 33 percent in 2016 as the league’s model for success remains promising for current and future clubs.
The real question is what is happening at the North American Soccer League (NASL)? Is this a pivotal signal — Is the NASL in trouble? After all, why would multiple teams leave the official second division? Is the growing partnership between the MLS and the USL that compelling — provoking teams to leave the NASL? Only time will tell.
Both clubs participated in the North American Soccer League (NASL) during the 2016 season and join Reno 1868 FC as the second and third club preparing to begin play next year.
The 2016 season saw the USL record a total attendance of almost 1.5 million for its 29 teams, a 33 percent increase from the 2015 campaign.
Having doubled in size since 2014, the USL has built a stable, highly-competitive professional soccer league.
The 2016 season featured the introduction of six teams, with the league also welcoming Nashville SC in 2018 .
Tampa Bay joins the USL after playing the last six seasons in the NASL. The Rowdies were crowned NASL Champions during the 2012 season after defeating Minnesota United (then named the Minnesota Stars) in penalty kicks.
“We are excited to join the United Soccer League in 2017,” said Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards. “I have said from the day I acquired controlling interest in this club that I wanted to make it one of the most successful teams in North America.”
“The USL is a vibrant league, and this move is a necessary and positive step toward reaching the long-term goals and objectives of the club.”
The USL is divided into two conferences – Eastern and Western – with each team playing 32 regular season matches. The 2017 season will kick off on March 24th with the Rowdies placed in the USL’s Eastern Conference.
“With our league headquartered in Tampa, we are pleased to welcome the Rowdies to the USL for next season,” said Alec Papadakis, the Chief Executive Officer of the USL.
“This allows us to expand our footprint into the Southeast with a storied soccer brand while meeting our key tenets of market size, committed local ownership and stadium development,” said Papadakis. “In Bill Edwards, we have a dedicated local owner who has invested heavily in the team’s stadium, front office and media efforts and is considered one of the marketplace’s top business and forward-thinking leaders. Bill is a renowned philanthropist and has donated significant money for children’s and veterans’ causes.”
Ottawa Fury played three seasons in the NASL, with the club reaching the championship last season in which they ultimately fell to the New York Cosmos. Fury FC has been eliminated from postseason contention this campaign with one match left of the regular season.
“We’re excited to be joining the fastest-growing soccer league in the world,” said Fury FC President, John Pugh. “The USL’s goal is to be the top second division in the world and we are thrilled to be part of it. Our growing and loyal fan base deserves and can expect a very high caliber of play and tremendous competition. Go Fury Go!”
Fury FC will close the NASL chapter of the club’s history on Sunday, October 29th at TD Place, facing the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at 2:00 p.m. on Fan Appreciation Day.
“In Ottawa we have a world-class ownership group with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which has transformed a section of Canada’s capital city into a sports, entertainment and residential destination that is second-to-none,” Papadakis said. “Like many of our current ownership groups, OSEG has cross ownership that includes a CFL team and a team in the Ontario Hockey League, and Fury FC’s success both on the field and in the stands makes the club an outstanding addition to the USL.”
Photo Credit: United Soccer League