Everyone knows who the Memphis Grizzlies and Redbirds are, and it’s hard to miss the FedEx Forum and AutoZone Park as you drive down Union Avenue. However, there are several minor league professional sports teams in town that you might not know about.
In January, Memphis welcomed another professional sports team called the United Soccer League, aka USL Memphis. If you missed that announcement earlier this year, let’s get you up to speed on what the team has been up to.
What’s the United Soccer League?
Quite simply, the USL is essentially minor league soccer in the United States. The highest level of soccer in this country is Major League Soccer and the USL follows close behind.
There are currently 33 clubs total in the USL; 31 clubs are in the U.S. while two clubs come from Ottawa and Ontario, Canada. USL Memphis is part of an expansion that also includes teams in Birmingham, Chicago, and Austin, Texas.
When do they start playing? Where?
USL Memphis joined the league in January 2018, but will not begin play until the 2019 season. The soccer team will play their home games at AutoZone Park. The baseball field will be converted into a soccer stadium for the USL home matches.
What have they been up to?
Starting a soccer organization is a busy business. March of 2019 is still nine months away, but the team is already in full swing. In March of this year, USL Memphis named Andrew Bell its inaugural Sporting Director.
Bell spent nearly 20 years with the Charleston Battery, another USL soccer team, before taking the job as sporting director here in Memphis. Bell is a native of Wokingham, Berkshire, England and moved to the United States in 1995. In 1999, he began his work with the Battery originally as a play-by-play announcer before moving up the organization and ultimately becoming the president.
In May, USL Memphis acquired Memphis City FC. Memphis City FC is a Premier Development League team that will not operate under the umbrella of USL Memphis. The development league has over 70 teams throughout North America and is proven to be a stepping stone for professional soccer players in the United States.
Soccer is a thriving sport in Memphis
Soccer gets lost in the shadows of the Memphis Grizzlies and basketball in general in the city of Memphis. However, the sport is very popular here. There is a multitude of high level, established youth soccer programs such as Lobos and the MidSouth FC. There are over 8,000 youth soccer players in Memphis as well as strong collegiate programs. High school soccer programs from Memphis win state championships every year and student-athletes represent Memphis on the collegiate level.
Memphis is also the home of one of the best soccer complexes in the country, according to Sports Planning Guide. Mike Rose Soccer Complex has 16 FIFA dimension fields and hosts tournaments that attract some of the best youth soccer teams from around the country.
Clearly, Memphis is ready for a professional soccer team.