TAMPA, Fla. – USL PRO announced today that an expansion franchise in Tulsa, Oklahoma will join the league for the 2015 season. The Tulsa Drillers of Minor League Baseball will be majority owners of the new team with Prodigal LLC holding a minority interest in the squad.
The team will play its home games at ONEOK Field, providing the highest level of professional soccer in the city since the Tulsa Roughnecks played their final season in the North American Soccer League in 1984.
“USL PRO is thrilled about the addition of a Tulsa franchise that will feature a strong ownership group, proven executive sports management team, and excellent downtown venue all in a market with a history of support for professional soccer,” USL President Tim Holt said. “In a sport built on rivalries, Tulsa fans will immediately enjoy an intense geographic rivalry with OKC Energy FC on the field, while the two clubs collaborate off the field to grow the sport at all levels throughout the state. This represents another major step in USL PRO’s plan for stable and strategic growth into key national markets.”
The name of the new team will be determined through a “Name Your Team Contest” in early 2014, and the team will begin taking deposits for season tickets immediately. The playing surface at ONEOK Field, home of the Drillers, will be converted into a soccer pitch with the field running from first base toward the left field wall. The dirt infield areas will be covered with sod to provide a complete grass surface playing field. Capacity at ONEOK Field is expected to be similar to the 7,833 seats used for baseball events.
“We are very excited to be involved in bringing a high level of professional, outdoor soccer back to the city of Tulsa,” Drillers General Manager Mike Melega said. “We feel that Tulsa is a great soccer market, and this return is long overdue.
“We think the USL PRO structure and its partnership with Major League Soccer provide the city of Tulsa with the best opportunity to have a successful and long-term franchise,” Melega said. “Over the years, Major League Soccer has looked closely at successful USL teams when selecting expansion cities, such as with Orlando moving to MLS in 2015. If the fans of Tulsa support the return of professional, outdoor soccer to the city, we feel that Tulsa has an excellent chance to move onto the radar of Major League Soccer as they consider future expansion cities.”
USL PRO is the strongest, most sophisticated and most experienced North American men’s professional soccer league below and in support of MLS, both on and off the field. Focused on franchise stability and longevity, USL PRO featured 13 teams in 2013 with more than half boasting a decade or more of operational experience, and the distinction of being the longest standing pro league affiliate member of the US Soccer Federation with more than two decades of successful operations.
In 2013 USL PRO began a groundbreaking, multi-year partnership with MLS that has further elevated the quality and stature of USL PRO, strengthened the competition in both leagues, and established a solid foundation for future collaboration. MLS teams will choose to either field a reserve team in USL PRO or affiliate with an existing USL PRO franchise by 2015.
The addition of Tulsa and the recent announcement of a franchise in Colorado Springs (also 2015) continue USL PRO’s western expansion initiative, with Sacramento Republic FC and OKC Energy FC slated to join for 2014 and additional exciting announcements expected in the coming weeks.