Who’s ready to embrace a new sports team in town?
Starting in May, Sarasota will be the home of a Division II-ranked United Soccer League team. The football pyramid in the United States is a complex beast, but it might be helpful, if a little reductive, to think of it in terms of baseball.
If Major League Soccer is the equivalent of Major League Baseball, the USL Championship Division is something like Triple-A baseball—except for the “farm system” aspects—then USL Division I is similar to Double-A baseball and USL Division II is single player baseball.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies play in League Two, while the Tampa Bay United play in League Two.
Like I said, this is not a perfect comparison. The USL has more leagues than this, and there are other leagues outside the USL umbrella that also enter these levels in various places. The important thing to know is that Sarasota gets a “pre-pro” football team. The league aims to help young players with their development and, ideally, get them to reach greater levels of the sport. The league is predominantly a U23 league, although teams can carry eight players older than that limitation to act as mentors to their fellow youths.
The Sarasota team, whose name has not yet been released, will play games at Sarasota High during its first 2023 season.
The club launched itself with a small gathering on November 19 at the Sarasota Museum of Art. The gathering, made up of club and USL League staff and people from the Sarasota football and business communities, was started by club founder Marcus Walfredson and served as an initial opportunity to secure ticket purchases and an opportunity for the club to introduce itself to the community.
“What is Sarasota?” Walfridson said. “It’s beautiful. There’s a lot of amazing people. A lot of art, a lot of culture. That’s good stuff. But I’ve been looking for identity. I think as a club, we’re all here, identity can help create. We can make it possible for people who transition to Sarasota to bring our games, put on a scarf and say, “We are Sarasota.”
For a little over six years on Rhythm, I’ve seen a handful of semi-pro sports teams try to use the Sarasota-Bradenton area as a base. Most of them fail. The truth is, unless you’re a die-hard sports fan, you probably don’t care to see some mid-talented athletes who don’t have great prospects play games in high school sports facilities.
The USL seems to get that and vows that the league is different, and that this team will give fans a reason to watch. This is why the club evokes a sense of community, but it is also why USL Vice President Joel Nash mentioned in his presentation that eight of the 26 USL Qatar national team players who have competed in the World Cup have played in USL2, as is commonly believed. . Referred to. includes that group Goalkeeper Matt Turner, who started Monday in the net for the United States as the team drew 1-1 with Wales.
This is, to me, a compelling story. These guys aren’t going to be adults looking to relive their glory days for some cash. They will be children of real talent who are looking to improve themselves in order to have a chance at something more, a dream that not only can be achieved, but that others have. And to top it all off: Walfridson promised that the club would try to fill its roster with as many Sarasota-native players as possible. It shouldn’t be a problem; Walfridson said the club has nearly 60 players who are communicating with interest. Based on last year’s Olympics, we know the city can produce world-class talent, but in my time here not a lot of that talent has gone into football. How cool would it be to cheer on a Sarasota native at the World Cup, still the world’s biggest sporting event, in 2030 or 2034, after watching them learn their craft here?
The club will hold trials early next year, once a coach is appointed, which Walfredsson said he hopes to hold in mid-January.
There is no crest or uniform designs available for the club yet, but the club’s creative director, Liam Murtaugh, gave a lengthy rundown of the things he and the club consider while building the team’s brand. These include physical things such as the city’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and public art such as a newly created Buck O’Neill mural, but also more abstract ideas such as the city’s changing population size and demographics. Team Promise This club will have a modern look.
It was a well thought out show. That thought permeated the whole event and is the main reason I’m optimistic about the club’s future here. Nothing in this club is thrown on a lark. The USL is headquartered in Tampa. Whatever support the Sarasota club needs initially, I’m confident USL will provide it. This initial presentation made it clear that the club wants to take root in the community for a long time.
You’ll need fan support to do that, of course. Walfredsson said the team would host a minimum of seven regular season matches in its inaugural season, with a possible pre-season and post-season matches if the club qualified. It will play other USL2 teams based in Florida, such as the aforementioned Tampa FC and Miami AC. Season tickets are already available: A bench seat in the stands on the West Side costs $149 and a seat in the East Side is $79. These bundles come with a free T-shirt and other goodies. If you’re feeling particularly optimistic, you can secure one of 25 Founding Member Packs for $1,499, which will feature your name on the team website and on the field, official team jerseys, VIP credentials and other perks.
Full detailing of packages Available at SarasotaUSL.com.
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