It's been a very busy week for USL CEO Alec Papadakis. Owners meetings took place in Tampa and a major announcement was released: Designed to help ensure the long-term stability of professional soccer in North America, United Soccer Leagues announced the merger of its First and Second Divisions into a single league property for 2011 - USL PRO.
I can confirm that the Hounds will indeed take part in the USL-PRO 2011 season. At this time, we're not sure which division we'll compete in, but a good bet is a North Eastern division consisting of teams such as Harrisburg and Rochester. It is possible that we will end up in a Midwest division with Dayton, but that is not likely.
After reading the press release, talking to a few of my contacts and scouring the net, I have come to the conclusion that this is very good news for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Football Club. The goal of the restructure is to bring long term stability to the league by reducing franchise operation costs and developing regional rivalries.
Playing games within a smaller geographical area will allow the Riverhounds to reduce their travel expenses by a significant amount. More games against neighboring clubs may help draw fans and allow travelling supporters to attend more road contests. If a club such as Cleveland re-emerged, the Hounds would have a natural rivalry to market! There is potential here and as a supporter this is right up my alley.
The inclusion of stable clubs like Rochester and expansion clubs located in larger markets will generate increased league exposure and benefit the smaller clubs. What does this mean? Well, in terms of exposure, we could see the Hounds on Fox Soccer Channel sometime in 2011. In 2010, FSC included a USL Game of the Week and hosted USL Breakaway, a weekly highlight show. Both should continue next season. Also, if the rumors are true and a team in or near New York City begins play in 2011, that would undoubtedly present opportunity. Adding the largest television market in the United States would give the league (and clubs) greater negotiating leverage and additional exposure, which could lead to increased revenue.
Yes, it is still speculation at this point but it's positive and attainable.
After a very successful 2010 campaign under gaffer Justin Evans, the Riverhounds will no doubt carry over their winning attitude, pride and passion to compete in the new league versus potential new clubs. UNLEASH THE HOUNDS!!!