Recently, it was unofficially confirmed that LAFC would receive an NWSL expansion team in 2018. With this announcement, the conversation is now beginning to shift to other cities that are deserving of a team. I decided to make a case for a city that I believe to be extremely deserving, but no one seems to be talking about: Louisville, Kentucky.
On the surface, Louisville has an exceptional amount of potential to become a great soccer city. The largest city in the Commonwealth has dozens of youth soccer programs, the best fan base in college sports, and one the most successful teams in the USL, Louisville City FC.
In their first two seasons, Louisville City has been absolutely killing it in attendance. Even their lowest attended games of the season have been higher than 80% of the other team’s averages. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amanda Duffy, president of Louisville City FC, to get her take on what has made Lou City so successful.
In the interview, Duffy explains that Louisville is an incredible town for college sports, but that this market exudes a want and a need for something more than college athletics. Being a graduate of the University of Louisville, I’ve seen the gravitas that college sports hold in Louisville. But even with a program as lucrative as U of L’s, you get a sense that the city is itching for a professional team, and Louisville City seems to be alleviating that itch.
An NWSL team in this city would be strongly supported by this community. Louisville residents take great pride in their city, more so than any other place I’ve ever lived. When Jennifer Lawrence was first nominated for an Oscar for Winter’s Bone, you would have thought the entire city had imploded. When U of L’s quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was drafted to the Minnesota Vikings, his jersey sales were at a surprising 4th overall amongst rookies. Even though there isn’t evidence that proves Louisville fans bought his jersey more than Vikings fans, it’s a solid coincidence that he came from the most money-making school in collegiate athletics. Thus, I believe that any fandom created here in Louisville will be automatically elevated beyond the sport and become something more.
Of course, Louisville isn’t perfect. There are still a few key components that the city needs to facilitate a team. The NWSL team will obviously need a place to play. Right now, Louisville City plays at a baseball stadium in downtown that they share with the Louisville Bats. Bringing another team in to play at that same stadium would be virtually impossible given the amount of games already scheduled between the two teams. But, there is another option in the soccer stadium used for University of Louisville games. The Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium is a brand new, 5,300 capacity stadium that was built for the men’s and women’s soccer team. (It’s interesting to note that the University of Louisville leads the nation in total attendance for their home soccer games.) But, just as the issue with Slugger Field, scheduling might prove to be an issue here as well. The only solution here would be to wait to bring in an NWSL team when Louisville City (hopefully) builds a soccer specific stadium. This would allow for both teams to have their own home field to grow around.
So, Louisville will not be getting an NWSL team in 2018 or 2019 or maybe even 2020. But, if Louisville City builds a soccer specific stadium and chooses to vie for an NWSL expansion team in the future, I have complete confidence that the Derby city team will be success.
Until then, I will settle on buying season tickets for the LAFC expansion team.
Christen Press, are you coming or what?