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United Soccer League team

 Birmingham will join the United Soccer League in 2019.

 
   

May 2017

  
 
     United Soccer League logo
Speaking with the Washington Post, United Soccer League President Jake Edwards discussed a number of expansion cities that could be slated to join the USL for the 2018, 2019, or 2020 seasons.

Edwards named Birmingham as one of the cities the league is looking to expand to, with expected announcements coming from Las Vegas (NV) and Fresno (CA) this summer.

Currently, the USL has thirty teams spread across the United States and Canada.
  
         
  

August 2017

  
         
 
    Photograph
  Owners Jeff Logan, Lee Styslinger, and James Outland are joined by
Birmingham mayor William Bell and USL president Jake Edwards.
   
After weeks of rumors and speculation, the United Soccer League held a press conference in Birmingham to officially announce that a franchise has been awarded to the city.

“The USL continues to lead the growth of professional soccer across the country and we are thrilled to announce Birmingham as our newest market,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis.

“Birmingham is an ideal market for USL, clicking off all of the criteria we require in a new expansion market,” continued Papadakis. “We welcome the club’s owners to the USL family, and are excited for the plans they have in store for the Magic City. Soccer fans in Birmingham will experience all the excitement of a first-class professional club, with the full support of the USL league office. Congratulations to the entire team in Birmingham. We look forward to their USL debut in 2019.”

The local team will begin play in 2018, but in the Premier Development League before moving over to the USL.

Birmingham club owners consist of Jeff Logan, co-owner of the Birmingham Barons baseball team; James Outland, founding and managing partner of New Capital Partners; and Lee Styslinger, III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec, Inc. – all local businessmen and sports enthusiasts who collectively agreed that a professional soccer team was needed to continue and expand the city’s growth trend.

Logan has been a co-owner of the successful Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team since 2006, a team that has attracted over 2 million in attendance since it’s home field was established at its current Regions Field location. The Barons’ relocation to downtown is widely regarded as one of the main catalysts for Birmingham’s resurgence and has seen over $1 billion of investment in the city center post move.

Outland began his professional career in the sports marketing industry working for ProServ, Inc., the second largest sports marketing firm in the world representing professional athletes such as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith. Currently, Outland’s New Capital Partners manages just under $500 million and has invested in and built over 30 companies, creating more than 2,500 jobs.

In addition to serving as chairman and CEO of Altec, Inc. – the holding company for Altec Industries, Capital Services, National Equipment Company, Altec Worldwide, Global Rental and Altec Ventures – Styslinger serves on the boards of the United States Olympic Ski Team, as well as the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As a member of Augusta National Golf Club, he chairs the Par 3 Contest and the Admissions and Credentials Committee for the Masters Tournament. He is also a member of the Business Roundtable and Council on Foreign Relations and is currently serving on the President's Manufacturing Council advising the White House on Workforce Policy, Infrastructure and Deregulation.

“The USL’s selection of Birmingham speaks directly to our recognition as a world-class sports city,” said Mayor Bell. “We are very appreciative of the investment by Mr. Logan, Mr. Outland and Mr. Styslinger in bringing professional soccer to the City, and we look forward to working with them and the USL leadership to ensure that we field a team that will bring us many championships.”

Morgan Copes – a lifelong soccer player, enthusiast and co-founder of the Birmingham Hammers – was recently hired as vice president of USL Birmingham. Copes will serve as the team’s main point of contact.   Copes explained that when the Hammers were originally approached by the partners, they were unsure what to expect. They quickly realized they not only wanted to bring the highest level of soccer to Birmingham possible but also wanted the Hammers’ locally-grown passion for the sport to be a pivotal driver in taking Magic City play to new heights. “The momentum for a professional soccer team in Birmingham all started with a couple of good buddies and a few beers. To now have a USL team here is amazing — I still have to tell people to ‘pinch me’ because it doesn’t feel real,” said Copes. “In addition to the Hammers, Birmingham soccer fans’ enthusiastic support was just as, if not more, important, and they are now being rewarded for those efforts.”

Until the club’s official name, crest and other branding elements are developed, the Birmingham team will operate as “USL Birmingham.” According to Copes, USL Birmingham staffing is a key next step, with additions targeted for end of year or early 2018.

Details on the team’s home venue will be made at a future date. Birmingham city planning leaders, alongside key USL and USL Birmingham representatives, are working together on the most effective field solution, with a downtown location for the stadium the preferred option. “We want to be in or near the center of the city and have walkable amenities nearby. That is our goal, and we are working on it,” said Copes. “Having a first-rate match day experience for our supporters is a high priority for us.” 
  
         
         
  USL President Jake Edwards is excited for the city to become part of the league. “Birmingham, for us, is a tremendous addition. From a regional point of view, there are some great natural rivalries, and Birmingham has long been a hotbed for the fans of the sport. It’s all about timing, and as that grassroots momentum has built over the last few years with the local fans of the sport like Morgan Copes and his partners that helped build the Magic City Brigade, that helped build the Birmingham Hammers, that helped build that grassroots soccer culture in the region, it’s tremendously important work, and they’ve done a great job over the last few years to do that. Again, it’s about timing, it’s about getting all the pieces in place, and with the ownership group with Lee Styslinger III, Jeff Logan and James Outland coming behind it with a strong plan, and the support of the Mayor and the city there to build a great stadium for this team, the timing was now. It’s a market we’ve kept our eye on for a long time, but I think they won’t know what has hit them when this soccer juggernaut comes to town. They’re going to be a great addition to the USL," Edwards said.   
       
 
 

 Other Sites of Interest

   USL Birmingham franchise
 
United Soccer League  
 
 
 
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Last Update: December 19, 2017