For Eric Edelstein, the 2017 United Soccer League season can’t come soon enough.
It marks the inaugural campaign for Reno 1868 FC, one of the latest USL expansion franchises to debut in the upstart USL, along with the Ottawa Fury FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Edelstein, president of Reno 1868 FC and the Reno Aces baseball club, has little doubt the Reno expansion franchise is destined for success on the field and at the gate. He said the USL was intrigued with the Reno market because of its strong ownership group, Reno Soccer Investors, LLC, led by real estate magnate Herb Simon.
“We have a willing ownership group. Herb gets 90 percent of the credit for bringing the franchise to Reno,” Edelstein said in a phone interview.
Edelstein also was optimistic Northern Nevada’s burgeoning young and multi-cultural population demographics are gravitating to soccer.
“For immigrant populations coming into the area, it is the most popular sport,” Edelstein said. “You also can go up to the (University of Nevada, Reno) and you’ll see a lot of people walking around wearing soccer jerseys.”
The name “Reno 1868 FC” was chosen after a public naming contest and is in reference to the year The Biggest Little City was first incorporated.
“We intended on having a community driven club name for consideration along with a nod to Eastern European soccer clubs,” Edelstein said.
When he spoke with NNBW on Thursday, Feb. 9, Edelstein estimated 1,250 season tickets had been sold for the franchise’s inaugural campaign.
Although the organization set a modest goal of selling 1,500 season tickets by the start of the season, Edelstein still was upbeat with the current tally, especially considering USL wasn’t able to release its game schedule until late January. He said with the late release date, fans may have been uncertain about buying tickets until the schedule was formally announced.
Edelstein cited the USL’s rapid expansion plans and the league’s recent elevation to Division II status prompted the late release date.
Edelstein hopes in the future as the league becomes more established it will be able to release its schedule by the fall prior to the next season.
According to the USL’s website, www.uslsoccer.com, the league has doubled in size since 2014. The USL (formerly USL PRO) was formed when two existing professional leagues were combined into a single league property prior to the 2011 season. The USL is the world’s largest Division II professional soccer league, with 30 markets in 20 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces for the 2017 season. The Division II status is the second-highest tier of soccer leagues in the United States and is sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, or more commonly known as U.S. Soccer. (Its website is www.ussoccer.com).
Reno 1868 FC will play its home games at Greater Nevada Field, also the home of the Aces. Although the Aces and Reno 1868 FC seasons will overlap, Edelstein said scheduling conflicts were minimal.
What makes scheduling easier is while the Aces season is condensed into playing 71 home games over the duration of five months, 1868 FC’s home slate is 18 home dates spread out over eight months, allowing for greater flexibility.
On July 3, Reno 1868 FC will play a home game and the field will be converted to host the Aces Fourth of July game the next day. The period marks the only time this season when the field will be converted in a 24-hour time period.
The ballpark’s field will transition from one sport to the other only nine times during the season.
“We did a lot of homework in getting infrastructure ready to support both teams,” Edelstein said. “We tried to have at least a 48-hour time window to transition the field between the two sports.”
Because of its odd configuration for soccer, Edelstein admitted some fans questioned the viewing experience at certain sections of the ballpark. But he said fans were invited into the ballpark to see firsthand there’s no bad seat in the ballpark.
Fans also got a sneak peak of how the alignment works when Greater Nevada Field hosted an exhibition match between Sacramento Republic FC of the Major Soccer League and the European club, Liverpool FC U21s last May.
Edelstein said the organization will continue to increase awareness of Reno 1868 FC with advertising on radio and television as well as social media channels.
He also applauded the USL for its proactive marketing approach not only for the league itself, but assisting individual franchises with promotional efforts in their respective markets. The USL has partnerships with media giants ESPN and SiriusXM. According to the league website, www.uslsoccer.com, it invested $10 million to establish USL Productions to produce and distribute live action and original content to local, national and international markets.
Reno 1868 FC hosts an exhibition match with Sacramento Republic FC on March 11. The regular season officially gets underway on March 25 with a home match against Orange County SC.
For more information on Reno 1868 FC, visit www.reno1868fc.com.