It was a big day for soccer in Southern California on Thursday. Sure, there was that whole un-retirement, but underneath all that hubbub was the news of the Orange County Blues officially being sold from Ali Mansouri to businessman James Keston.
This is big, positive news for a club that needs it. Ignoring the on-field product, it’s no secret that the Blues are in the bottom tier of USL when it comes to the business aspect, which includes marketing and advertising, stadium situation, branding and more.
In the release by USL, Keston made some big promises. A complete rebranding, a new 10,000 seat stadium, and an academy system are the ones that really stick out, and it makes sense why. USL is in the process of applying for Division 2 status in the U.S. Soccer pyramid, and there’s a bevy of requirements for all of a league’s teams to be eligible for D2. In the end, USL is only as strong as it’s weakest teams, and currently the Blues, among other teams, are in that realm.
While there is definitely reason to be excited, I hold just a bit of caution. Blues fans have been promised big things before, only to be left disappointed. Talk of a new stadium has been around the club for a few seasons now, but nothing has materialized, and if the club really wants to advance, that’s probably priority number one. The club has “rebranded” in different ways at least four times since their establishment, and none have inspired a major influx of new fans. The academy system sounds like a fantastic plan, but will have to compete with several existing ones in the Orange County area like Strikers FC and Pateadores SC.
A majority of hard-core Blues fans have developed a wait-and-see attitude with the club, and I think the same applies here. A revolving door of head coach and GM changes through the years had promised a new direction, but nothing as big of an ownership change has happened since the club changed its name from the LA Blues to OC Blues FC.
Keston certainly has the potential to take the club forward and into new heights along with USL’s ascent into D2, but call me cautiously optimistic. I would love nothing more than to see all this happen, but that’s just it. I need to see it, before I believe in it. If he pulls off these promises, there’s no doubt that a new wave of fans and a rejuvenated current group of fans will flock to support this club, and the prospect of that is extremely exciting.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!