Executives from the United Soccer League were in Fort Myers this past week, touring various venues for a potential expansion franchise that would begin play in 2019.
Two of the stops included jetBlue Park and the Sherman Soccer Complex in Gateway.
Well, let’s be honest – they were touring jetBlue Park and “since we’re here anyway” … decided to check out the Sherman Complex. Not a bad idea, since it’s home to Southwest Florida’s second-largest youth soccer program, the Gateway Soccer Association.
The USL is looking to launch a new third division named “USL D3”, which would begin play next year. They’ve already announced teams in Statesboro, Georgia and Tuscon, Arizona.
If you know enough about the US soccer pyramid that you thought the USL already operated a third division league, you’re forgiven. (You also probably need to get out more.) That league used to be named USL Pro, but was renamed simply USL a few years ago and is currently considered a second division league. Major League Soccer is the only first division league in North America.
In a statement on the league’s website, USL D3 Vice President Steven Short called Fort Myers a market that is “prime for a professional soccer team.”
Fort Myers marks the 24th market that league officials have visited in person. In addition to the Gateway sites they’ve also visited locations in Buckingham, City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, FGCU and the Kelley Road Soccer Complex, according to an article in the News-Press.
“We’ve been in discussions with several groups in Fort Myers for months now,” Short told the News-Press. “We believe that Fort Myers is on a great track to that point.”
“Our visit to the city of Fort Myers was the next step towards an expansion franchise in Lee County. During our time in market, the league continued its efforts with potential ownership and met with local leaders to discuss the expansion opportunity and potential venues,” said Short on the USLD3.com website.
The USL is banging the drum pretty loudly to put a team in Fort Myers, so it does seem like it’s a possibility. Assuming the baseball field at jetBlue Park can be converted to fit a regulation USL soccer field, Gateway would be considered one of the top potential destinations for the expansion team.
They want to run their season from March to September. So I’ve got concerns about the weather.
But … despite the fact the USL has teams from coast to coast, north and south, all four corners of the country … the USL is based in Tampa. So they know all about Florida weather and must feel like Fort Myers can work.
If they do choose to put a team here, and again assuming jetBlue can even work at all for soccer, let’s hope they put the team in Gateway.
If they’re looking to launch a new league in March 2019, they’re going to have to start making some announcements really soon. If they announce a new expansion team here, we’ll certainly let you know.