As soccer fans in San Antonio, sometimes its easy to lose perspective of how great of a situation our club is in. Toyota Field is one of the best stadiums in USL, and a pretty great soccer specific stadium on its own. Spurs Sports and Entertainment brings stability and experience in ownership. San Antonio FC doesn’t have to compete against many other professional sports teams in the city for attention, and the one that it does is owned by the same group. All-in-all, we’re set up for success.
In a small series of posts, I’d like to briefly highlight some other teams’ situations. My intention isn’t to say “look how good we have it,” especially because there are a few clubs who have things SAFC doesn’t. My goal is to get familiar with our fellow USL clubs and to help carve out our own little section of league culture.
Since USL is basically two separate leagues, East and West, the focus will be on the fellow members of the western conference that SAFC will be challenging.
Arizona United SC
Ownership: Kyle Eng (Majority owner, Founder), Brett Johnson (Minority owner,President), Diplo, TMWRK Management, other artists pending (minority owners)
Stadium: Peoria Sports Complex. Capacity: 11,333. Built in 1994. Shared with Major League Baseball’s Spring Training at the beginning of the season.
Arizona United SC is a team that San Antonio fans should get familiar with as the two clubs play each other three times this season. Two of the meetings are in August while the third is in September.
Arizona United rose from the ashes of Phoenix FC, who also played in the USL. The events surrounding Phoenix FC’s demise are worthy of a post in itself, but the short version is that team ownership failed to meet USL standards of operation and was stripped of its franchise rights. Some of the story can be found in a Tucson Sentinel article here.
Today, Arizona United is a successfully run club with one of the more interesting ownerships in all of North American sports. It was announced in January that Music Producer and DJ Diplo would be joining the ownership group along with a few other artists.
The team plays in Peoria Sports Complex, a multi-use venue that houses 11,333 seats. The venue is also home to Major League Baseball Spring Training for the Padres and Mariners, which seems to get priority in scheduling since Arizona United doesn’t play a home game until April 30th.
Arizona finished 10th out of 12 in the West in the 2015 season, missing the playoffs by 10 points. In 2015 the Phoenix-area based club was affiliated with FC Dallas, but Dallas recently signed a two year agreement with OKC Energy.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Ownership: Ragain Sports, LLC. Group created specifically to found club
Stadium: Sand Creek Stadium aka Switchbacks Stadium. Capacity: 4,000. Built in 1985, Renovated in 2014. Soccer Specific Stadium.
Colorado Springs and San Antonio play twice this season, once in each city. The first meeting is April 23rd in Colorado while the second is June 18th at Toyota Field.
The club was founded in 2013, but didn’t begin USL play until the 2015 season. After finishing in 3rd place in the west for the regular season, Colorado Springs defeated Seattle 2 in the first round of the playoffs before falling to OKC Energy on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the second round.
The Switchbacks play in a stadium that was originally built in 1985 to house international soccer matches, but renovated in 2014 to fit the needs of a modern USL club. It seems like a fantastic place for soccer on paper, being one of only a handful of soccer specific stadiums and natural grass fields in the league.
With all the logic that represents the current state of the Denver area MLS team, the Colorado Rapids chose to partner with USL side Charlotte Independence instead of Colorado Springs. Similarly to Arizona United, Colorado Springs does not have an MLS affiliate despite being just over an hour away from an MLS team.
edit: an earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Arizona’s baseball tenant as a minor league team instead of spring training location