The Washington Post Soccer Insider is reporting that the United Soccer League (USL), a quickly-expanding soccer league one level below Major League Soccer (MLS), is likely coming to Baltimore by the 2019 or 2020 season.
USL President Jake Edwards told the Insider on Monday that league executives will meet with the Baltimore group, as well as local officials, in the next two weeks to continue discussions about the expansion bid and tour potential sites to build a stadium.
“It’s moving along nicely,” Edwards said. “I think it’s going to be a tremendous success in Baltimore.”
Asked if he thought expanding to Baltimore seemed almost certain, Edwards said: “Yes.”
Also from the article:
Edwards declined to identify the backers of the Baltimore campaign but said a “very successful local businessman is at the forefront of the group” and that it plans to build a stadium and launch a youth academy. The minimum seating capacity for second-division teams is 5,000. Last year, in its expansion season, FC Cincinnati averaged 17,296.
The USL has 30 teams with about a third of them under the ownership of MLS clubs, according to Soccer Insider. Several USL cities are making bids to join the MLS including Cincinnati, Louisville, Sacramento, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Phoenix. Joining the USL could be a first step toward Baltimore entering the MLS conversation in the future.
Nearby USL clubs are in Harrisburg, PA; Harrison, NJ (“New York”); Richmond, VA; and Pittsburgh, PA.
With the 266-acre Port Covington development in South Baltimore getting underway by Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development, the area is often speculated by Baltimoreans as the potential site of a new professional sports venue. However, a soccer stadium for the USL at Port Covington is not being considered at this time. Officials from Sagamore Development, which also owns the 43-acre Westport Waterfront parcel, told SouthBMore.com that they are not involved in this club and have not been approached about a stadium.
Under Armour, which is building a 50-acre campus within the Port Covington development, is planning on constructing its own sports stadium in the future. The field will have a football, soccer, and lacrosse alignment with a surrounding running track. Under Armour originally planned for the stadium to have a capacity of 5,000, but Under Armour officials noted last year that it keeps growing and could go up to 12,000. The stadium will be open to the public during certain events including high schools sports games.
Rendering Courtesy of Under Armour
Sagamore is also teaming with Ripken Baseball to design athletic fields at the future West Waterfront Park in Port Covington.
It is yet to be known if any sites in South Baltimore are considered for a USL stadium. A 7,000-person soccer stadium was once proposed for the now-defunct Crystal Palace FC in Pigtown/Carroll-Camden at a large property at Wicomico and Ostend St. Westport was also once considered as a landing spot for the D.C. United during its pursuit of a new stadium. The club is now under construction on a new stadium at Buzzard Point in Washington, D.C.
Rendering courtesy of the former Crystal Palace Baltimore
Baltimore is currently the home of the Baltimore Blast, a Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) club that has called the City and Royal Farms Arena home since 1992. Baltimore is also home to the Bohemians Soccer Club which competed in the lower-level Premier Development League (PDL). The Bohemians have played at different sites throughout the Baltimore area including Bovegna Field in Canton. The Bohemians announced the following in January:
As of the 2017 season, the Baltimore Bohemians Soccer Club will be on hiatus until further notice. We are taking this time off to refocus our efforts on bringing a legitimate professional franchise to this great city.
The Bohemians are owned by Louis Angelos, son of Baltimore Orioles Owner Peter Angelos and current Ownership Representative for the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore also has an independent team called the Baltimore Kings Pro Soccer Club.