Los Angeles Soccer: United Soccer Leagues
A decision by the club, which also fields a women's team in the W-League -- all three leagues are administered by Tampa, Fla-based United Soccer Leagues -- will be made in the next few days, Blues head coach/vice president Charlie Naimo said Wednesday night.
"It looks like it's probably going to happen," Naimo said. "Right now, we haven't signed anything, but we're strongly considering it and talking to guys who might play for us [in the PDL]. We think it can be a good thing. It serves a need, and if we decide we can fit it in, if we do [the PDL team] as a pro team, we can move guys back and forth [between the two teams]."
The Blues' top team plays its first match in the third-tier USL Pro a week from Friday, and a second team could serve as a reserve side, enabling players seeing little time with the first team to see game action and helping to develop players for the big team.
Hollywood United, which has a long relationship with the Blues organization, last month pulled its pro team out of the PDL and joined the Galt, Calif.-based National Premier Soccer League, a rival national amateur/semipro outfit. The Blues, in theory, would step into HUFC's PDL schedule unveiled in February. Opening day would be April 29 at Fresno Fuego.
"We're cautiously optimistic it will happen soon," Naimo said. "There are definitely pros and cons, for sure."
The cons are economic -- it costs more money to field two pro teams than it does one -- and in spreading a thin front office even thinner. Naimo said the club would need operational assistance from the USL to put three teams on the field, but that ought not be a problem.
HUFC, which has several competitive teams in addition to the celebrity side featuring Anthony LaPaglia in the nets, last month departed the PDL to hook up with the Galt, Calif.-based NPSL, a growing outfit that promises owners more freedom and power and far lower costs.
The Hitmen, a professional team coached by former Galaxy forward Jose Botello, debuted in the new league Saturday night, eclipsing the first-year Santa Ana Winds, 1-0. Arturo Albaran's early goal was the difference in the Western Division clash at Santa Ana Stadium.
The PDL season kicks off at the end of the month -- HUFC was supposed to open at Fresno Fuego on April 29 -- and the Tampa, Fla.-based United Soccer Leagues, which administers the PDL and several other national leagues, must alter its Western Conference schedule.
A league spokesman said the plan was to announce a new slate on Wednesday. There are four L.A.-area teams remaining in the PDL -- L.A. Legends (who will play at Huntington Park High School), Orange County Blue Star (Concordia University in Irvine), Southern California Seahorses (Biola University in La Mirada) and Ventura County Fusion (Ventura College) -- after HUFC and, previously, Lancaster-based Rattlers FC, bolted for the NPSL. Thousand Oaks-based FC Hasental also has joined the league, giving it four L.A. teams, too.
“It's an area we've been trying to get into quite a while,” said Dan Trainor, the NPSL commissioner. “We know about the teams there. It's a matter of … I'll call it coming of age.”
The Bay Area-based group that will field professional women's teams in Orange County and the Bay Area next year, with plans to place an O.C. club in Women's Professional Soccer in 2012, hopes to have a greater impact than just competing for championships.
They'd like to help transform women's pro soccer in America.
That's part of what's behind the venture announced Monday, to compete next season in the Women's Premier Soccer League. The OC Sol and Bay Area Sol would be the first fully professional clubs in the WPSL, one of two national semiprofessional women's leagues in the U.S., and their ownership group envisions a stronger connection among the leagues and WPS.
That could have a profound impact on the future of pro soccer in this country.
“I do [believe WPS is viable], but I subscribe to the view that there should be layers of professionalism -- and of semiprofessionalism, if you wish ...,” said Paul Haley, a Bay Area business consultant and the face of Soccer Partners LLC, the Walnut Creek-based group behind the new Sol enterprise. “We're motivated to see more than one league or division for professionals to play in.”
L.A.'s already got the Galaxy and Chivas USA. Here comes a third professional men's team, set to begin play next year, likely at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium.
Blue Star LLC, which had a stake in the late L.A. Sol, will announce next month formation of a club to play in the United Soccer Leagues' First Division, the second tier of American pro soccer. The enterprise was confirmed by Charlie Naimo, the group's technical director -- and possibly (probably?) the club's soon-to-be head coach.
"We're still working on a couple final things before [announcing]," Naimo, who attended last week's USL annual general meeting in Florida, said Wednesday. "I think we're shooting [to have] everything in line in a couple of weeks. We want to announce this for real, that we've got a team, this is our first player, this is where we'll play, who coach is. We want it to be complete."
Blue Star, which is run by husband-and-wife team Ali and Maryam Mansour and has a connection with Australian actor Anthony La Paglia and Hollywood United FC, operates the Pali Blues women's club (which plays in the USL's W-League) and was co-owner with Anschutz Entertainment Group of the Sol, which posted the best regular-season record in Women's Professional Soccer's inaugural season and folded earlier this year after AEG pulled out.
The organization is awaiting USL approval of the L.A. Blues name -- the name used by its former team in the USL's semiprofessional Premier Development League -- and is working to reach an agreement to use the 10,000-seat stadium in Fullerton.
"It's certainly one of the venues we're very keen on, and it's a strong possibility we'll get a deal done," Naimo said. "It's the best stadium in the area for anything other than MLS."
Naimo, who was the Sol's general manager, is head coach and president of operations for the Pali Blues -- he guided the team to W-League titles in 2008 and 2009, its first two seasons -- and a consultant for the Chicago Red Stars, a WPS club facing a Dec. 15 deadline to attract funding for the 2011 season.
Two local Premier Development League clubs -- Orange County Blue Star and the Southern California Seahorses -- are being recognized for their longevity by the United Soccer Leagues.
They're among six USL clubs, and three from the PDL, receiving “10+” honors at the organization's Hall of Fame banquet Friday in Tampa, Fla.
Blue Star joined the PDL in 2001 and has helped develop former Chivas USA captain Sacha Kljestan (Huntington Beach/Huntington Beach HS), now with Belgium's RSC Anderlecht, as well as Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers (Palos Verdes and Huntington Beach/Mater Dei HS), Kansas City Wizards wing-forward Kei Kamara (Lawndale/Leuzinger HS and Cal State Dominguez Hills), Seattle Sounders midfielder Brad Evans (UC Irvine) and Chivas USA midfielder Sal Zizzo (UCLA). The biggest name to play for the OC team: Juergen Klinsmann, who used the pseudonym Jay Goeppingen, taking the last name from the town of his birth.
The Seahorses, who are based in La Mirada, also debuted in 2001 and are affiliated with Missionary Athletes International, a Christian sports ministry, and a sister club to USL Second Division power Charlotte Eagles. Alumni include Columbus Crew forward Steven Lenhart (Yorba Linda/Esperanza HS and Azusa Pacific), Seattle Sounders defender Patrick Ianni (UCLA) and former Galaxy defender Adam Frye (UCLA) and midfielder Josh Hansen, who plays for USSF D2 Pro League champion Puerto Rico Islanders.
Three clubs with Major League Soccer connections -- the Chicago Fire's PDL side and the Seattle Sounders' and Vancouver Whitecaps' women's teams -- also are being recognized. So is USL Pro club Pittsburgh Riverhounds.