Soccer Returning To Tampa

Soccer Returning To Tampa

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 19, 2008
  • USL

One of the more exciting stories I’ve read over the last 24 hours or so. Professional soccer is on it’s way back to Tampa Bay. Eight years after the Mutiny folded in Major League Soccer and nearly 20 years after the Rowdies exited the field by the Bay. Professional soccer turns next year in the first division of the USL.

Most who know me know when MLS started back in 1996, I was just a young soccer loving kid. As long as the juice boxes were flowing at practice and the oranges were fresh I was a happy soccer loving kid. Then along came MLS and the Tampa Bay Muntiny. I don’t know what it was that drew me to this club but man did I ever enjoy watching them in their first year.

From the fro of Carlos Valderrama, to a young Steve Ralston, and to the amazing scoring ability of Roy Lassiter. This club was fun to watch in 1996…and even some after that until they folded.

Now the city will get a new team. No word yet on what they will be called but the fact that they get a new club and a new stadium bodes well for the USL, who could see a couple teams make the jump to MLS in the next couple of years after Seattle does it in 2009. (EDIT…yeah I goofed on this one, they will be called the Rowdies again!)

The USL’s offices are based in Tampa. So this is a logical move on the part of the league.

The typical operating budget for a First Division team is $1.2-$1.5 million, said Matt Weibe, the USL’s senior director of franchise development. The franchise fee is currently $350,000 but increases to $750,000 on Aug. 15. A First Division club must also have a line of credit worth $500,000.

Tampa attorney Vincent Marchetti said he represents a group of private investors who want to build a soccer stadium in Hillsborough County. Brock said one of the investors is a local businessman while the remaining investors are from outside of the state. Marchetti said the ownership group is looking at more than one site and have already spent money on engineering and design.

“It is a group that has been pursuing a soccer stadium on a privately funded basis for some period of time and they’ve got a lot of resources in place,” Marchetti said.

Marchetti said the stadium would seat between 6,000 and 7,000 fans with room for expansion. The USL has a minimum size requirement of 5,000, Weibe said. A USL First Division stadium recently opened in Montreal with seating for 13,000. Last year, the Rochester, N.Y., Rhinos moved into a new 11,000-seat stadium.

“Since Major League Soccer departed here, we’ve always felt at the USL First Division that Tampa would be an excellent market,” Weibe said.

Construction of the stadium would not require any public funding, Marchetti said. He said permitting and construction would take about two years.

Yeah, honestly I can’t wait. I really can’t wait for a soccer return to this city. Does this mean they could eventually see a return to MLS down the road? Uh, no. But it could be promising if their club does well and grows a solid fan base.