USL League One is expanding, with Omaha the latest to be selected for expansion. The former MLS hopeful club hopes to begin to play in 2020.
One-time MLS hopeful Omaha has fully bought into USL League One instead. The expansion club will play at a multipurpose minor league baseball park in 2020.
Alliance Omaha Soccer Holdings principal Gary Green also owns the Omaha Storm Chasers, who play minor league ball at Werner Park. This as yet unnamed franchise is the only professional soccer club in Nebraska.
The team name, logo and colors will come after community input at town halls and the official website. This team, the first USL expansion club for 2020, succeeds previous teams Omaha Flames, amateur, and Omaha Vipers, lower level pro.
The Flames drew just over 3,000 and the Vipers about 2,700 before they folded. Bugeaters FC, an amateur team, recently moved to Omaha after playing one season in Lincoln.
Minor league Werner Park in Omaha has hosted one college soccer game in 2011. That one featured the University of Nebraska, then coached by new Omaha franchise head coach Jason Mims. He also coached soccer at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He is a former assistant coach and scout in the Real Salt Lake academy system.
More from MLS Multiplex
- Javier Milei Elected in Argentina: Potential Impacts on MLS and Signings of Argentine Players
- Orlando City and New York City FC in the Battle for Matías Arezo; Grêmio Enters Negotiations! Who Will Come Out on Top?
- USA, Honduras, Panama, and Canada Close in on a Spot in the 2024 Copa America
- De Gea Turns Down Al-Nassr’s Lucrative Offer: Speculation Points to Possible Reunion with Messi at Inter Miami
- Messi’s Magnetic Impact in the United States
For league play, the park gets renovated for USL expansion with a retractable pitching mound and grass to cover the baseball diamond. These and other improvements are budgeted by the county at $2.2 million. Costs will be repaid to the county through rent. Offices and more locker rooms are also included in the design.
Werner Park can seat up to 9,023. The team will play a 28-game season from March through October in the third-tier league. Green said Omaha is ripe for the kind of growth and experience USL soccer offers their communities. And USL continues to expand in an exploding fashion, while still sealing the infrastructure of their teams to prevent the league from going supernova and imploding.
USL League One will grow to 24 teams in 2021. Other expansion clubs have also been announced in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Rochester, New York. At Division 3, the league is below, respectively, MLS and USL Championship.
Owner Green said he would intently watch for growth of sponsorship and crowd size. If growth warrants, he said he would work to move the Omaha franchise up to USL Championship. But for now, with the more careful expansion pace that MLS has had to employ, and the strength of current committed expansion candidates, Omaha leaders have made their best choice in going USL.