No secret that the United Soccer League has made a play for expansion teams owned by MiLB owners, and another may be in the works, as the Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) may be looking at a Memphis USL team playing out of 2019 at AutoZone Park.
In the last few weeks we’ve seen plenty of announcements that combine an MiLB owner or MiLB ballpark combined with a USL team. Earlier this week the USL announced a Birmingham expansion team with an ownership group that includes Jeff Logan, a co-owner of the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League). No word on the venue yet, but it’s hard to imagine Regions Field isn’t part of the discussions. Fresno Football Club is joining USL in 2018 and playing out of Chukchansi Park. A new Las Vegas USL club is playing out of Cashman Field. USL and NASL Division II teams already play out of MiLB parks in Louisville, Reno, Brooklyn and Tulsa, while the USL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies play out of former spring training and MiLB facility Al Lang Stadium.
In the case of Memphis, Redbirds majority owner Peter Freund is said to be considering a 2019 Memphis USL team playing out of AutoZone Park. Nothing is announced and nothing is certain, but Memphis would be a huge get for the USL: It’s a major market with a history of supporting pro soccer, albeit many years in the past. In the past, USL officials were pretty adamant about requiring USL expansion teams play in soccer-specific stadiums, but now with an infusion of MiLB owners entering the pro-soccer world, that requirement seems to have gone by the wayside.