The Virginia Investment Partnership held a community event Nov. 5 at the new Loudoun Soccer Park in Ashburn to announce the next home of a North American Soccer League franchise.
Rumors had been swirling for months about a new professional franchise in Loudoun, and VIP sports and entertainment officials confirmed it this week.
The NASL, a second division minor league just below Major League Soccer, has been looking to expand the league for some time, according to an Aug. 13 interview with NASL Commissioner David Downs.
“VIP blew us away with their strategic mission for how this team would work as well as all the analysis they did,” Downs said. “This team is going to bring an awful lot to this community and this league. One of the things I am most excited about is this team will be playing in a major league park that will be ready in the spring of 2014.”
As expected, the yet-to-be-named franchise will the share the new stadium at One Loudoun with the Loudoun Hounds. One Loudoun is located near the intersection of Route 28 and Route 7, three miles west of the Fairfax County line.
The soccer team, which will begin play in 2014 when the stadium is completed, will likely draw the bulk of its fans from Fairfax and Loudoun.
The stadium was planned to be included in the Kincora development, but VIP moved the stadium to One Loudoun after little to no progress had been made at Kincora.
Mark Simpson, a former Major League Soccer goalkeeper with D.C. United, has been tapped to lead the franchise as the Director of Soccer Operations.
Simpson, a Loudoun resident, won three MLS titles as the United’s goalkeeper and he will be in charge of the team’s direction, coaching staff and player development.
Simpson outlined some plans for how the team will operate at the event. He emphasized the involvement of the community in building soccer up even more in the area to get young soccer players opportunities to move forward in professional soccer.
“One of the goals we are going to have with this professional soccer team is we are going to create an academy system. This will allow us to partner with local soccer clubs like Loudoun Soccer to provide them an opportunity to play at the highest level a kid can play at,” Simpson said. “We want to build players on the field and off the field and create a nurturing, mentoring and positive environment for these kids to grow.
“This is such a soccer hotbed here and we want to give more local players visibility to our youth national teams,” Simpson said.
Simpson noted a desire and hope to provide a direct feeder system into both international and national professional leagues.
With the team not having a name, VIP also announced at the event a contest to name the team. Anyone can enter and try and name the team. To enter, visit www.naslvirginia.com and winners and awards will be handed out in January.
The original NASL folded in 1984, but the new league held its first season in 2011. There are currently eight teams playing in the league and two more have already been established, but have yet to begin play.
In his earlier interview, Downs acknowledged that the area has been a strong candidate for a new soccer franchise.
“There is a tradition of soccer in Northern Virginia that is very appealing to us. The community is doing well economically and I think a team there would really stand out as a premier sports attraction in that market,” Downs said. “Realistically, we are looking to have between 18 to 20 teams by the year 2018. We don’t have any dramatic urgency to grow at any particular pace year to year. Our vision in the long run, is to maintain a single league that is nationally relevant where everybody plays everybody else.”