USL president Jake Edwards has been in the news a lot the past month, doing a series of interviews with a variety of outlets, but a new interview with SoccerAmerica includes a key factor about stadiums for USL teams that will impact the Orange County Blues.
Edwards notes in the SoccerAmerica interview that as part of the league’s push to be sanctioned as a Division II league by the U.S. Soccer Federation, all teams need to be in 5,000-capacity stadiums by “next season.” From the article:
"As a league," Edwards said, "we're giving them a deadline of next season." That means clubs must present business plans detailing contractors and vendors, seat plans, timelines and costs.
"Everyone has to meet the standards," Edwards said, "whether they are an independent team or MLS second team, whether they have been in the league one year or 20 years."
How does this impact the Blues? Their home the past few seasons, UC Irvine’s Anteater Stadium, only has a capacity of 2,500. While the Blues will need to do considerable work to even get to a regular crowd above that 2,500 mark, the new league standards mean they will almost certainly need to move to a new stadium, either for the 2017 or 2018 season, depending on when the league actually sets the final deadline.
On the bright side, this matter is clearly on the radar of new Blues owner James Keston, and one would expect he had some future stadium plans already privately presented to the league before his purchase of the club had been approved. Publicly, news of his acquisition of the club in September included promises of “dramatically improved game day experience in a new stadium with up to 10,000 seats.”
So again, the club is obviously not caught off guard by the 5,000-seat stadium minimum, and based on Edwards’ comments, have a little bit of time to figure out the new situation, either temporary or permanent, to comply with the regulations. Stay tuned on this front, as we’ll have more coverage of the stadium quest as we find out more.
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