Home Birmingham Legion logo Birmingham Legion
United Soccer League
Premier Development League
American Soccer History Archives

Birmingham will join the United Soccer League in 2019.


May 8, 2017
    United Soccer League logo
   
United Soccer League president Jake Edwards discusses 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 and Fresno this summer.

Currently, the USL has 30 teams spread across the United States and Canada.


August 8, 2017
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.

    Photograph
  Owners Jeff Logan, Lee Styslinger, and James Outland are
joined by Birmingham mayor William Bell and USL president
 Jake Edwards
   
Birmingham club owners consist of Jeff Logan, James Outland, and Lee Styslinger, III – 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 two million in attendance since its 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 since their 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, 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 Three 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.”

    Birmingham Hammers logo
   
Morgan Copes – a lifelong soccer player, enthusiast, and co-founder of the amateur 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. 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.”

August 13, 2017
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."

January 17, 2018
It was announced that the team would be named the Birmingham Legion Football Club. The name pays homage to legendary Legion Field, Birmingham's industrial steel past, and the Birmingham Hammers.

Legion FC vice president Morgan Copes said, "We wanted to pay tribute to our past. You think about Birmingham's sporting history, and you think about Legion Field. There is a lot of history in that building, and that's a lot of great history for our city. Birmingham has centered around Legion Field for so long, we thought this was a great tip of the hat to the stadium. We're elated with the way it all came out, and we can't wait to get everyone's reaction." The team will not play at Legion Field, however.

Team colors will be Molten Gold and Attack Black.

Copes helped form the Birmingham Hammers, and they will play their final season this summer in the Premier Development League before becoming the Birmingham Legion in the USL.

February 9, 2018
In a press release, the Birmingham Legion Football Club announce they have aligned with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and will be playing in UAB's BBVA Compass Field.

“We are thankful for the University of Alabama System and their partnership in this decision and hope the result of it will only enhance Birmingham’s soccer community moving forward,” said Jay Heaps, Legion FC president and general manager. “We have maintained throughout the selection process that we want to be in the city center – and this site works perfectly for our objectives.”

UAB president Ray L. Watts agreed, “UAB is proud to partner with Legion FC and the USL in support of this important addition to Birmingham’s growing sports and entertainment landscape. We look forward to welcoming Blazer and Legion soccer fans to BBVA Compass Field where they will enjoy the facility expansion and enhancements now approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.”

   
   
Legion FC ownership is confident that the new stadium at UAB will provide its fans with onsite perks and amenities necessary for a positive game day experience. The pitch is already beautiful and in a great location.  It only seemed natural to see if there was a way to partner to make it an even better facility. “The field is centrally located with ample parking and easy access to interstates,” said Styslinger. “Additionally, there are multiple establishments nearby to enjoy both before and after games – from restaurants to craft breweries and more. We are excited about this partnership with such a phenomenal community partner.”

“The upgrades to BBVA Compass Field will make it one of the largest and finest on-campus soccer venues in the country,” said UAB director of athletics, Mark Ingram.

According to Heaps, the venue – with a capacity of about 6,000 – is optimal as the pro team kicks off in Birmingham and is sure to help create an electric atmosphere to attract current and new fans. “A soccer-specific facility with a grass surface was high on our priority list, and this stadium is exactly that. UAB has plans to build a beautiful stadium with impressive city views, and we look forward to helping continue to develop a standard that will help professional soccer thrive here in the Magic City.”

Legion FC plan to play 17 regular season home matches and potentially host more in Open Cup competition. 

May 8, 2018
The Legion ownership group adds John Harbert, Billy Harbert, Jim Rein, and Jack Bryant as investors.

August 16, 2018
    Photograph
  Head coach Tom Soehn
   
The Legion announce the hiring of Tom Soehn as the club’s head coach.

Soehn, 52, most recently served as a scout for the Columbus Crew, after spending four years as an assistant coach and interim head coach with the New England Revolution.

Soehn’s most successful years as a coach came in his time with D.C. United from 2004-2009. He won an MLS Cup and Supporter’s Shield as an assistant coach before claiming a second Shield and a U.S. Open Cup championship as head coach.

As an MLS player, Soehn won his first U.S. Open Cup with the Dallas Burn and then two more Open Cups and an MLS Cup in three years playing for Chicago. Prior to his MLS days, Soehn played professionally in the Major Indoor Soccer League, the Canadian Soccer League, the American Professional Soccer League, the National Professional Soccer League, and the Continental Indoor Soccer League.

“I am delighted and grateful for the opportunity to be the head coach of Birmingham Legion FC. The passion and vision for the club and the city during the interviewing process made Birmingham the obvious choice. I am looking forward to meeting and growing our fan base as we begin our inaugural season,” Soehn said.
 
United Soccer League Birmingham logo

Hammer Down logo
 
 
 
Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: August 17, 2018