Executives look at Dayton for another soccer team

Exploring whether Dayton can support another soccer team, a United Soccer League Division III executive who recently visited the city said Friday that a new team could co-exist with and complement the Dayton Dutch Lions FC and the Dayton Dynamo.

“We see a professional team in Dayton as an opportunity for players, coaches, referees and even companies to get involved,” Steven Short, USL Division III vice president, said. “And part of that is, we really see Division III as the league of opportunity — an opportunity for those (amateur) players to move to the next level.”

The Dutch Lions were established in 2009 as an amateur team in the Premier Development League. From 2011 to 2014, the team played in the USL professional division. Today, the team is amateur.

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Locally, the Dayton Dynamo FC also play as a minor-league outfit in the National Premier Soccer League.

“We believe a professional team in Dayton will complement the existing youth, amateur and collegiate infrastructure and not compete against it,” Short said.

The USL is an established Division II league and boasts on its web site its position as the “longest standing member of the U.S. Soccer Federation.” The league is launching a third-division men’s professional league in two years, looking at cities with populations of 150,000 to 1 million.

Asked how likely a Dayton USL team is, Short said any answer would be speculative but added: “Dayton is definitely a city of interest for us.”

USL DIII expansion officials have been visiting Dayton and other Midwest cities in recent days.

Short and Josh Keller, director of business development for the USL’s Division III, have visited or will visit Toledo, Fort Wayne, and Lansing and Grand Rapids, Mich., according to the league’s web site www.usld3.com

Said Short, “We enjoyed our trip to Dayton; we had a great time.”

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Short said he was able to visit sites, meeting with local officials and others, but he said he did not connect with prospective team owners.

“I would say we’re at the preliminary stage, to be up front with you,” he said. “This is purely a fact-finding and information-gathering trip.”

It’s a Millennial population that truly drives teams, with a healthy micro-brewery culture and good sites, he said.

“You know the desire is there (in Dayton, for another pro team) to a degree,” he added. But facilities and ownership also play a role in any franchise’s success.

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