Oklahoma City’s soccer wars have begun.
Prodigal LLC, which operates the American Hockey League Barons, has been granted a United Soccer League PRO franchise. Prodigal has not secured a venue yet but plans to begin play in 2014.
An ownership group led by Tim McLaughlin expects to be granted a North American Soccer League franchise, to be run by Brad Lund’s Sold Out Strategies. It has a lease to play at the renovated Taft Stadium, beginning in 2015.
For the Wednesday Oklahoman, I wrote about the kookiness of going from zero to two soccer franchises. I chatted with USL president Tim Holt and NASL commissioner Bill Peterson. I didn’t get into much of their comments in my column, so I thought I would share them. This is going to be a mess to sort out over the next few months, but this is a start.
TIM HOLT, USL PRO PRESIDENT
“Oklahoma City’s a market we’ve had on our radar screen for a long time. It’s a big-sized market, definitely big enough to sustain a well-run soccer operation.
“The Confederations Cup is being played. Oklahoma City was fifth in the TV ratings. The market is very underserved.
“There’s a defined pathway to move to MLS soccer. Four of the last five teams to join MLS, each of those teams spent at least a decade in USL PRO. It’s a great story for us. Portland, Vancouver, Seattle and Montreal were our teams. They joined all with the same ownership and the same brands.
“This isn’t something reacting to something that happened last week or last month. Our perspective of the chronology. We’ve worked with Prodigal for a couple of years. Sold Out Strategies acquired a PDL franchise last winter. We made it very clear to them that we had a long-standing dialogue with Prodigal. They (Sold Out Strategies) submitted a formal application for USL. We chose Prodigal. We made the determination Prodigal is best for us. They have all the attributes. Their relationships within the city, their performance. We selected Prodigal. We chose them in part because of their Oklahoma City roots.
“I can’t envision a day when there won’t be a professional soccer team in this market. This is going to be the next overnight success in American professional soccer. It’s a very high level of soccer domestically.
“It’s an exciting day. There’s a lot of work to do before the next game happens.”
BILL PETERSON, NASL COMMISSIONER
“I am confident. They’ve (Sold Out Strategies) met all the prerequisites. There’s no reason for me to believe that won’t happen.
“We’re excited about Oklahoma City. It’s a great opportunity. A great sports town. It’s just got a lot of energy. You really know how popular the sport is there. We think all the ingredients are there.
“Pretty close to a formality. Tim McLaughlin is about as upstanding as you could get. I don’t see any hiccups. We’re coming to Oklahoma City. We’re going to play a high level of professional soccer.
“Quite honestly, I don’t care what other people do. We’re two different leagues. Our goal is to provide the highest level of soccer in the country.”