Tim Brassfield, vice chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Sports Consortium, took the podium Tuesday on the Devon Tower's 50th floor and hailed the arrival of the USL PRO soccer league in OKC.
“Some things are obvious,” Brassfield said. “And one thing that's obvious is we need a professional soccer team.”
I couldn't agree more.
But do we need two?
What should have been a day of celebration instead was a day of confusion, much as two weeks ago, when another fledgling franchise, this one in the North American Soccer League, was awarded a lease at Taft Stadium.
I'll try to explain it as best I can a little later, but there's good news. If you're not a hard-core soccer fan, you can just shrug and wait for football or Thunder season.
Alas, there are some soccer loyalists whose emotions have gone from exhilarating to exhaustion at trying to decipher what the heck is going on.
“It's been confusing and it's been troubling,” said John Bratt, an OKC resident and leader of the Red Dirt Brigade, the grassroots soccer fan club that currently supports Oklahoma City FC of the Premier Development League, a summer-league team made up primarily of collegians.
“My hope is that this doesn't divide the city. I want the sport to succeed. It would irk me to no end if this sport died because of boardroom politics or a courtroom gavel. That would devastate me.”
Confused? I'll try to explain it, but you need to pay attention or you're going to be completely lost.
Prodigal LLC, which runs the American Hockey League Barons, has purchased a USL PRO franchise.
USL PRO is basically the top minor league for Major League Soccer.
Bobby Funk Jr. is president of Prodigal, which came out of Express Sports, which owned the old hockey Blazers.
The NASL franchise is owned by a group led by Oklahoma City businessman Tim McLaughlin.
The franchise is set to be run by Brad Lund's Sold Out Strategies. Lund once ran Express Sports and was part of the Blazers for 17 years, before he and Funk Jr. became at odds.
The NASL is attempting to become a rival league to Major League Soccer.
So think of the USL PRO as the Pacific Coast League and the NASL as basketball's old ABA or football's old USFL.
And just so your confusion knows no bounds, Lund also runs the Oklahoma City FC, which is a subsidiary of USL PRO. Oklahoma City FC's contract with USL PRO says its owners and management will not participate in a competing league.
Sold Out Strategies filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking relief from that no-compete clause.
Told you this was going to be confusing.
Lund can't speak publicly because of the court case, and Funk was unavailable Tuesday due to the birth Monday of his second child.
But I talked to the commissioners or presidents of both leagues Tuesday, the NASL's Bill Peterson via phone and USL PRO's Tim Holt, who was at the Devon Tower.
Both spoke impressively of their league, just as you'd expect, and both paint a bright picture for the franchises in their leagues.
I could go into detail for both, but frankly, is it worth it? One of these franchises is doomed to fail, maybe both if they both go to the mat.
Doesn't sound like anyone is giving in.
I don't know what the answer is. A duel at 20 paces. Penalty shots kicked by the ownership groups. Let the Red Dirt Brigade vote.
Bratt, the super fan, said if Oklahoma City lands an elite soccer team and nobody shows up in support, he can live with that. But if the sport fails because of warring factions, “that would devastate me. I hope they bury the hatchet before it's buried in this town.
“My hope is we have a team that we as fans can get behind.”
In other words, Oklahoma City needs a soccer team. It doesn't need two.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.