Riverhounds notebook: USL president eyes 2nd-division status for league
One day before the 2016 USL season kicks off with games in Montreal and Seattle, league president Jake Edwards spoke at length about the future.
Edwards fielded questions during a teleconference with North American media Thursday, and while he often was light on specifics, he focused on continuing “strategic growth” for the 29-team league stretching beyond this season.
But while league expansion sounds attractive, the important point for a 17-year-old Riverhounds franchise was talk about the league’s ongoing application to be upgraded to second-division status by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The move would shrink the gap between USL and MLS and place higher requirements on teams and their stadiums, which are to hold at least 5,000 people.
“Our goal is to be one of the very best second divisions in the world. The (Football League) Championship in England is the fourth-largest league in Europe in terms of attendance and revenue, and that can be a model for us,” Edwards said about England’s second division.
Edwards was asked specifically about future of the Austin Aztex, who will not field a team this year, and Charlotte Independence. The clubs are reported to have suffered heavy financial losses in 2015, a story familiar to Riverhounds fans, who saw the team enter and emerge from bankruptcy in the past two years.
“I’m not going into the revenue side for clubs. The goal is long-term franchise value and for owners to see their valuation increase,” he said. “Our clubs now range from $3 million to $20 million, which is a significant growth in value.”
Hounds add another defender
Defender Jordan Murrell, a Syracuse product and former Canadian Under-18 international, was signed Thursday.
Murrell’s addition brings the team’s total under contract to 20 players with two — midfielders Marshall Hollingsworth and Ben Swanson — on loan from the Columbus Crew.
The Riverhounds will be on the road Friday to visit their MLS affiliate in Columbus for training and scrimmages, though not an official preseason match.
The Crew are off this weekend, along with most of MLS, because of World Cup qualifiers being played worldwide.
The Riverhounds, through a scheduling quirk, are off the first week of the USL season before opening at home April 2 at 7 p.m. against the Rochester Rhinos.
Midfielder Kevin Kerr, the team’s top returning scorer from a season ago, will serve as the captain according to a team release. Kerr is entering his fourth season with the club and trails only Mike Green (fifth season) for continuous time with the Riverhounds.
Changing the rules
The USL announced one major change to its tiebreaking procedures.
Ties for playoff spots and seedings will be broken first by total wins then by goal difference and goals scored. Head-to-head results, the old first tiebreaker, no longer will be used.
Other rules confirmed were a limit of seven non-U.S. or Canadian players on each team’s roster and a roster freeze date of Sept. 6.