Grand Rapids “checked all the boxes” as a possible market for a team in the United Soccer League’s new Division III league, according to an official who recently visited the city.
USL Division III vice president Steven Short said the culture, populace and support for established professional sports teams in Grand Rapids make the city a prime target for one of the 12 or so teams that would launch the USL’s new foray into Division III soccer in 2019.
“The Grand Rapids you hear and read about, with the 60-plus breweries and the downtown culture was awesome to experience,” Short said. “You can tell it’s thriving, it’s a mix of young and old and it’s definitely a sports city.”
Short and USL DIII Business Development Director Josh Keller toured Grand Rapids last month as part of an exploratory tour of cities that could support a possible USL franchise. In addition to Grand Rapids, Midwest cities visited included Lansing, Dayton, Toledo and Fort Wayne.
During their Grand Rapids visit, Short and Keller met with city officials and local sports figures, including West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler, Grand Rapids Griffins President Tim Gortsema, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Chief Strategy Officer Paul Rumler, The Right Place Vice President of Strategy Rick Chapla and Grand Rapids Football Club President Matt Roberts. The pair also met with West Michigan Whitecaps executives, including CEO Lew Chamberlin and president Scott Lane.
Guswiler said he had a “great conversation” with the league about the city’s potential for a USL franchise, and the addition of any professional sports team to the area enhances the region’s standing as a premier destination for sports.
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