Photo courtesy Jim Oberg / Las Vegas Lights FC
As each USL season begins, the anticipation for what the league’s set of newcomers will bring to the table is always a fascinating topic for discussion.
After all, since the 2014 season there have been 12 teams that have reached the postseason on their first try, and one in Sacramento Republic FC that took home the ultimate silverware at USL Cup at the end of the season,
It’s that history that the USL’s five newcomers for the 2018 season will be aiming to emulate, and with the moves that have been made already it seems certain the new additions will make waves next spring.
Nashville SC’s arrival, announced in 2016, has been embraced strongly already locally, with the club currently having surpassed 3,000 season-ticket members. With former MLS Cup-winning Head Coach Gary Smith leading the way, and the club’s first signings including veteran goalkeeper Matt Pickens, the omens are good for the club’s first professional season in the Music City.
When it came to making a splash, though, Las Vegas Lights FC did so in a manner that lived up to its city’s moniker as the entertainment capital of the world. Hiring Jose Luis Sanchez Sola – better known by his nickname, El Chelis – as the club’s first Head Coach made waves throughout the league, and it will be fascinating to see what names are being lined up to compete for a side that Chelis wants “to smell like Las Vegas.”
Photo courtesy Las Vegas Lights FC
A little further north, Fresno FC’s arrival in the league marks the progression to the professional ranks of a city that has been a soccer hotbed thanks to the PDL’s Fresno Fuego FC for many years. Bringing aboard former Sacramento Republic FC assistant Adam Smith as the club’s first Head Coach to work alongside General Manager Frank Yallop, the club is ensuring it can walk before it runs, but the Foxes’ partnership with Vancouver Whitecaps FC will provide some good talent to build around from the off.
Photo courtesy Fresno FC
While Nashville is gearing up for its first professional season, North Carolina FC’s arrival to build out the league’s Southeast contingent brought another highly-respected organization into the league for the new year. The experience of Head Coach Colin Clarke and the competitive nature of his squad will be buoyed by the reestablishment of regional rivalries with the Richmond Kickers, Charlotte Independence and Charleston Battery, bringing another playoff contender into the mix in the Eastern Conference.
Photo courtesy North Carolina FC
Those clubs will also have to contend with the arrival of a newcomer established by Atlanta United that will compete at Coolray Field in Gwinnet, Ga. next season. While more details are to be revealed in the coming weeks about the new club’s identity, if Atlanta’s first season in Major League Soccer is anything to go by – let alone what we’ve seen from the likes of ALTUTD Homegrown signings Andrew Carleton, Chris Goslin and Academy product Lagos Kunga – the potential talent should be exciting to watch in the years to come.
With the new season now little over three months away, the buildup for all five new squads is going to be a major storyline this offseason, and well into the new year.