USL Chief Executive Officer Alec Papadakis met with the media at Peoria Sports Complex prior to Arizona United SC’s match with Sacramento Republic FC Saturday night and revealed his plans to meet with FC Tucson officials today to discuss a possible jump to USL PRO.
FC Tucson, which plays in the USL PDL (fourth division), is coming off its best season in club history, reaching the West Final before being eliminated by Kitsap Pumas.
Papadakis was optimistic about FC Tucson’s chances of moving up, noting it would be good for United and an Arizona area that “has produced so many good players.”
“It’s a very good possibility,” Papadakis said. “That would be a very nice rivalry.”
Papadakis said any changes would happen “in the next season or two.”
Praise for Kyle Eng and Arizona United
Papadakis, who was making his first trip to Peoria, also said he was impressed with United owner Kyle Eng, calling him a “magician” for what he’s done with the club in four months.
Papadakis said he is “extremely, extremely happy” with what Eng has accomplished thus far and wants to place him in a leadership role in the future.
“Kyle is going to play a major role in this league as one of the leaders,” Papadakis said. “He has a great deal of enthusiasm and energy. His work speaks for himself. He’s a great marketing mind.”
The CEO was even impressed with Eng’s venue, Peoria Sports Complex, saying it “looked nice” for being a purpose-built spring training ballpark.
United will have its own stadium by 2020, according to Papadakis, and said the club didn’t need to be in any rush to build a stadium.
USL PRO has already added four expansion clubs for the 2015 season, but Papadakis said there could be more than just 18 teams in the league next season.
“We can be as high as 22,” Papadakis said. “The reason being there are going to be several MLS clubs coming in.”
Papadakis said Major League Soccer told him there would be no more reserve team games against USL PRO sides following this season, so the focus has shifted towards bringing in as many MLS sides as the league can.
Papadakis is hoping to one day match every USL PRO club with an MLS affiliate, including United, who the CEO said “should have an affiliation pretty soon.”
The overflow of new clubs will also bring a change to the standings system, Papadakis said.
He isn’t certain yet whether USL PRO will have a conference system or division, but promised “you’re gonna see some changes next year.”
Papadakis said he will know more about further expansion in a couple of weeks after the Boards of Governors meeting and MLS All-Star meetings in Portland.
Future Schedule Changes
Papadakis addressed the scheduling flaws that have outraged players and coaches alike recently, admitting “there’s a very valid and legitimate concern” when it comes to the nature of the schedule.
Stadium restrictions and U.S. Open Cup matches have made scheduling difficult, Papadakis said, but the CEO offered solutions for the 2015 season to help eliminate issues like back-to-backs.
“Next year we are going to be expanding the season in order to accommodate a better way of dealing with the games,” Papadakis said.
Papadakis expects the regular season schedule to run through the end of September as opposed to the beginning of September with an end goal of having a more MLS-like calendar year.
Papadakis also hopes to have a Wednesday/Saturday schedule or one match a week instead of the Friday/Saturday schedule the league has now.