Two New Clubs to join USL PRO in 2013
The United Soccer League’s Pro Division had eleven members in 2012 and will increase to thirteen next year. Late this summer it was announced that VSI Tampa Bay FC would be joining the USL PRO along with a club from Arizona called Phoenix FC.
VSI Tampa Bay FC or Tampa Flames as they are also referred to, were in the USL’s Premier Development League in 2012. VSI stands for VisionPro Sports Institute which is a worldwide developmental soccer organization based out of England. VSI came in last year and partnered with the West Florida Flames located in Brandon, Florida. Their focus is to develop youth players into professional footballers one day through their academies. Last year the Tampa Flames finished 7-4-5 in PDL competition. The Head coach of VSI Tampa Bay FC is Matt Weston, previously a head coach at former USL PRO Club FC New York. Matt also played professionally for Ispwich Town and Stockport County FC. Home fixtures for the Flames will be played at new temporary venue in downtown Tampa, it will have the same design as the Empire Stadium in Vancouver that hosted the Whitecaps for a year. Rumors say VSI has the money and funding to build a 28,00o seats stadium with a retractable roof that can be exapanded to 40,000 for an MLS exspansion franchise in 2016.
The state of Arizona now has a USL PRO franchise located in Phoenix, Arizona. The Wolves is the nickname of the Phoenix Football Club. Phoenix FC is owned by BDR Sports LLC, a group of investors, soccer coaches, and former professional players led by Tim Thomas. Thomas’s ultimate goal is to land an MLS franchise in Phoenix, the nation’s largest city without one. Phoenix FC in the United Soccer Leagues will try to do what Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver did before by being awarded an MLS franchise after success in the USL. Phoenix will be coached by former Scottish National team and Rangers FC player David Robertson. Robertson has previously managed Elgin City and Montrose which are clubs in the Scottish third division (the league Glasgow Rangers plays in now). The supporters club for Phoenix FC will be called La Furia Roja 1881 organized by local American Outlaws chapter members. Having Phoenix will help shorten some of the travel for the LA Blues which were previously the only USL PRO club west of the Mississippi River. Someday Phoenix FC may be a member of Major League Soccer but big things don’t happen over night, we shall watch them grown in the United Soccer Leagues Pro Division.