Prodigal LLC cemented Oklahoma City's union with the United Soccer Leagues on Tuesday.
In the main ballroom on the 50th floor of the Devon Tower, John Allgood and USL President Tim Holt made it official: Professional soccer is back in Oklahoma City.
“It's the highest level in Oklahoma City,” Allgood, the Senior Executive Vice President of New Business Development for Prodigal, said. “It's also to symbolize that we're bringing in the highest level of professional soccer to Oklahoma City.”
Prodigal LLC has bigger plans, however. The group believes that with its experience combined with rabid fan support of the USL team, within the next eight to 10 years it could be on a level to get an MLS team in Oklahoma City.
Part of Prodigal LLC's attraction to USL PRO was its recent joint venture with Major League Soccer. In 2013, USL PRO began a multiyear partnership with MLS to strengthen the competition in both leagues.
“There is a demographic of fan that wants soccer in Oklahoma City, and we think the combination of partnering with USL Pro and our experience that we're going to be on the right path to get an MLS team,” Allgood said.
Four USL clubs — the Harrisburg City Islanders (Philadelphia Union), Orlando City (Sporting Kansas City), the Richmond Kickers (DC United), and the Rochester Rhinos (New England Revolution) — entered into formal affiliation agreements with MLS teams starting with the 2013 season.
Each club affiliation includes at least four players on long-term loan from the MLS parent club to its USL PRO affiliate.
USL PRO features 13 teams, including expansion teams in Phoenix and Tampa. Two more teams were to join the league for 2014 in Sacramento, Calif., and Oklahoma City.
The league's season runs from April through September, consisting of 26 regular-season matches, including two MLS interleague games.
“Four of the five teams that have gone in the MLS have come from a USL PRO franchise, and there's a formal agreement that allows that to happen,” Allgood said. “So we think, and I know the Greater Oklahoma City Sports Consortium, which Tim Brassfield is going to speak about this too, they feel like that USL PRO is the best opportunity to get to an MLS franchise.
“When will we get an MLS franchise, that remains to be seen.”
The relationship between Prodigal and the USL has been three years in the making. Holt said given Prodigal LLC's experience with operating sports franchises, he and his associates felt comfortable awarding Prodigal LLC the USL PRO franchise.
Prodigal also runs the American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons.
In the next few months Prodigal LLC will begin looking into an affiliation partnership with MLS franchises in Dallas, Houston and Kansas City. At this time, Prodigal is currently in negotiations with several interested groups for a venue, and Allgood said Prodigal has received calls about the future location.