October 25, 2016
BYE BYE NASL
Rowdies will join USL next season
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies will join the United Soccer League next season, it was announced Tuesday.
The Rowdies became the first professional sports franchise in the Tampa Bay area, winning the 1975 NASL Soccer Bowl title in their inaugural season, also winning the title in 2012. The Rowdies are in eighth place and out of playoff contention in the NASL with a visit to the Jacksonville Armada scheduled Sunday.
“With our league headquartered in Tampa, we are pleased to welcome the Rowdies to the USL for next season,” USL chief executive officer Alec Papadakis said in a release. “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. In (Rowdies CEO) 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.”
Tampa Bay is the 11th largest media market the U.S. The USL is the largest professional soccer league in North America with 29 teams in 19 states and three Canadian provinces.
“We are excited to join the United Soccer League in 2017,” Edwards said. “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 Rowdies’ move to the USL is a positive step toward reaching the long-term goals of the club.”
The Rowdies play in Al Lang Stadium (capacity 7,227), situated on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront. Edwards took over management of the city-owned facility, known for baseball spring training, turning it into a soccer venue. The diamond was removed, the field leveled, and new turf, drainage and irrigation systems installed. The venue was pressure washed and painted, new seats were installed and lockerrooms refurbished. A team store was added and a state-of-the-art scoreboard was installed.
The USL recorded a total attendance of nearly 1.5 million, a 33 percent increase from 2015. The league has more than doubled in size since 2014. This year, the USL introduced six teams. Reno 1868 FC will enter the league next season. Nashville SC is scheduled to join in 2018.