BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The United Soccer League announced Birmingham, Alabama, as the location for a new professional soccer team to begin play in the 2019 season on Tuesday, with the club set to field a team in the Premier Development League starting in 2018.
Birmingham’s ownership group consist of Jeff Logan, co-owner of the Birmingham Barons baseball team; James Outland, founding and managing partner of New Capital Partners; and Lee Styslinger, III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec, Inc. — all local businessmen and sports enthusiasts who collectively agreed that a professional soccer team was needed to continue and expand the city’s growth trend.
“We look forward to having another USL club operating a PDL franchise, as we continue to provide a clear pathway to the professional ranks," PDL Director Todd Eason. "Having a distinguished ownership group of Jeff Logan, James Outland and Lee Styslinger, we know the club will provide a first-class professional experience for talented amateur players looking to make the jump to the next level."
Morgan Copes — a lifelong soccer player, enthusiast and co-founder of the Birmingham Hammers — was recently hired as vice president of USL Birmingham. Copes will serve as the team’s main point of contact.
“It is very important for us moving forward to ensure there is no lull in play for local soccer fans. The PDL season will arrive quickly, and there is much to do before that time,” said Copes. “The positive momentum that has been built by, namely, the Birmingham Hammers and their passionate quest for a pro team is only going to help push this new endeavor in the right direction.”
Logan has been a co-owner of the successful Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team since 2006, a team that has attracted over 2 million in attendance since its home field was established at its current Regions Field location. The Barons’ relocation to downtown is widely regarded as one of the main catalysts for Birmingham’s resurgence, which has seen more than $1 billion of investment in the city center following the organization’s move.
Outland began his professional career in the sports marketing industry working for ProServ, Inc., the second largest sports marketing firm in the world representing professional athletes such as Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Dominique Wilkins, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith. Currently, Outland’s New Capital Partners manages just under $500 million and has invested in and built over 30 companies, creating more than 2,500 jobs.
In addition to serving as chairman and CEO of Altec, Inc. – the holding company for Altec Industries, Capital Services, National Equipment Company, Altec Worldwide, Global Rental and Altec Ventures – Styslinger serves on the boards of the United States Olympic Ski Team, as well as the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As a member of Augusta National Golf Club, he chairs the Par 3 Contest and the Admissions and Credentials Committee for the Masters Tournament. He is also a member of the Business Roundtable and Council on Foreign Relations and is currently serving on the President's Manufacturing Council advising the White House on Workforce Policy, Infrastructure and Deregulation.
Details on the team’s home venue will be made at a future date. Birmingham city planning leaders, alongside key USL and USL Birmingham representatives, are working together on the most effective field solution, with a downtown location for the stadium the preferred option.
Additional information — including advanced ticket sales — can be accessed online at USLBirmingham.com, and “USLBHM” handles are currently available on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The PDL is a part of the United Soccer Leagues, which also operates the Division II USL, the newly-announced Division III league and Super Y League. The league serves as the proven stepping-stone for aspiring professionals.
Since 2010, nearly 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections have PDL experience, including a total of 59 selected in 2017. U.S. Men’s National Team members Darlington Nagbe, Jordan Morris, Matt Hedges, Brad Guzan and DeAndre Yedlin are among the many players to have played in the PDL before making their professional debut.