In the past several years we’ve seen MiLB teams add professional soccer to their schedules. This season sees the Reno Aces (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) add a United Soccer League team, Reno 1686 FC, to the mix at Greater Nevada Field.
The move to add USL soccer to the mix was spearheaded by Eric Edelstein, our 2015 Ballpark Digest Executive of the Year. A soccer fan, Edelstein attended plenty of soccer matches both in Great Britain and the United States before beginning work on establishing a minor-league soccer franchise. The USL is now on the second level (provisionally) of the United States soccer pyramid, alongside the NASL. (The whole NASL-USL situation is covered in some depth on our sister site, Soccer Stadium Digest.) Reno joins Louisville Slugger Field, Tulsa’s ONEOK Field, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, Yankee Stadium and perhaps Brooklyn’s MCU Park as homes of MLS/NASL/USL teams.
Beyond the baseball venue, the club will also test a baseball model when it comes to player development and a relationship with a major league club.
Edelstein called the arrangement a “baseball style affiliation. The Earthquakes are taking a progressive approach to player development in the soccer world, though it’s very comfortable for us in the baseball world. We have implicit trust in them to put a competitive team on our field and give our players the best opportunity to move up to the MLS club into the future.”
There are good reasons to be optimistic for soccer’s success in the Reno market. Edelstein describes the city as growing, becoming younger and more diverse, key demographics in the rise of soccer nationwide. “We’ve been able to do something for our community that will further identify Reno in the sports world and better the quality of life for years to come.”
The club has a great baseball pedigree, an established venue, and a strong partner in the Earthquakes – all positive indicators of future success. Minor league baseball franchises nationwide will surely be watching them closely, hoping to learn how to build soccer from an existing baseball franchise and stadium.
Image courtesy Reno 1868 FC.
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