The team is set to prove that San Diego is ready for Division 2 soccer. “San Diego has been the hotbed for youth soccer players for many decades,” said Pros CEO Noah Gins. “The community is ready to fully support professional soccer. Whether it be the MLS, USL, NASL, or NPSL there is a fan base and desire to watch and be entertained by this beautiful game.”
This match on Feb. 25 will be more than just a pre-season match. It will be a battle between two leagues, that has the potential to shake up U.S. Soccer. In the past, the Albion Pros have been closely linked to a move into what has been U.S. Soccer’s sole Division 2 for many years, the North American Soccer League (NASL), before the United Soccer League gained traction and just recently gained Division 2 status alongside NASL.
Many first division teams have their reserve teams playing in the USL, such as Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, and LA Galaxy.
Albion head coach Ziggy Korytoski recognizes the importance of the game, and the potential the Pros offer, after the Chargers left a void in the hearts of San Diegan sports fans. “San Diego is an ideal setting to develop players. The proof is in Albion, which has integrated our youth organization to complete the soccer pyramid – our model creates a pathway to the Pros.
“We averaged more than 2,000 supporters in our first season with a good mix of community and youth club support. Everybody from players, supporters and sponsors wants to be associated with a winner … and we proved that we were in year one,” Korytoski said.
“We qualified for the US Open Cup, we had an undefeated first season, reached the national quarterfinal, we developed a strong fan base and while we contract players from around the world, we develop top talent and promote players from within. What more would you want from a local professional franchise?” he added.
The match bears special significance, as the ownership group of Phoenix Rising FC, is also involved in the bid for a potential MLS expansion team in 2020, and a direct competitor for the City of San Diego. Phoenix and San Diego are two of 12 cities that threw their hat into the ring for an MLS expansion, and this Saturday will be a chance for all supporters in San Diego to make a statement to the MLS, and Commissioner Don Garber, as U.S. Soccer will be watching.
Korytoski knows of the importance of this game for San Diego: “Now is the right time and a tremendous opportunity for San Diego to take center stage in the American soccer landscape. To be a city in consideration for the next round of MLS expansion just stamps the entire soccer community.”
And not by us, but by U.S. Soccer and the MLS.”
Albion Pros vs. USL’s Phoenix Rising FC
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.
Where: Mission Bay High Stadium, 2475 Grand Ave.