MEMPHIS, Tenn-Downtown Memphis’ newest professional sports team was unveiled Monday by Major League Soccer star, United States National Team goalkeeper, and Memphian Tim Howard, with the ownership group led by Principal Owner Peter Freund, President Craig Unger, and the St. Louis Cardinals organization revealing plans to bring a United Soccer League team to AutoZone Park.
The yet-to-be-named USL Memphis team will play its inaugural season in 2019 at the downtown home of the Memphis Redbirds, which will be converted from a soccer venue to a baseball stadium throughout the season. The stadium will take on a soccer-specific atmosphere with the transformation to an authentic soccer experience, including food and beverage options, unique seating areas, and more to highlight the joy of the game and passion of its supporters.
“When I first visited AutoZone Park before purchasing the Redbirds, I immediately recognized the potential for it to be home to more than one professional sports team,” said Freund. “We will build an entirely separate organization focused on providing an authentic soccer experience similar to what Yankee Stadium, home to the New York City Football Club, has been able to achieve at the MLS level.”
“AutoZone Park is a big part of the fabric of the city and is the setting for so many memories for people each year, and now, we are going to be able to invite even more people to experience the excitement,” said Unger. “The stadium will now be buzzing every weekend from March through September.”
“Memphis is my home in the offseason, and I cannot express how excited I am to support professional soccer downtown,” Howard said. “We will have a chance to see some of the brightest talent in the game playing in our city, and I look forward to helping the USL Memphis organization on any and every level I can to ensure its success.”
In 2018, the 34 USL teams will play 34 matches over 31 weeks in the regular season running from late March through mid-Oct., with Louisville City FC the defending USL Cup champion. The nationally-spread league is divided into Eastern and Western Conferences and focuses on regional rivalries in scheduling.
Memphis will join the league alongside Austin and Birmingham in 2019. Upon arrival, Memphis will be part of a group of 10 current teams within a 500-mile radius of each other, including Louisville City FC, the Charleston Battery, the Charlotte Independence, Saint Louis FC, and the Swope Park Rangers.
For more information, visit www.usl2memphis.com and follow the franchise on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at USL Memphis. The team name and colors are scheduled to be unveiled at a later date.