FC Tucson to field women's team in new Division I pro soccer league
Details spare as local team set to join new Phoenix side for USL Super League's 2024 season
The owners of FC Tucson will be among the first franchisees in the startup USL Super League, a top-tier professional women’s soccer league that plans to kick off play in August 2024.
The Super League intends to launch as a first-division offering "that will make world-class professional women’s soccer accessible for more players, more fans, and more communities across the United States," representatives said.
"FC Tucson ownership shares the league’s commitment to highest standards in American soccer and collective vision to be a global leader in world soccer on and off the field," said the owners of the local team, a group led by founder Jon Pearlman and businessman Jeff Arnold.
Tucson was among the initial group of eight markets announced Tuesday. Others include Phoenix, Dallas and Washington D.C. The league plans to have 10 to 12 teams competing in its inaugural season.
USL Super League's "'fall to summer' calendar, unique in American soccer, aligns... with the global game and prioritizes player welfare and performance," representatives said.
"This signifies a new era for women’s sports and soccer in Tucson, and Arizona as a whole," said Pearlman. "Tucson is proud to be part of a state with numerous talented women among our elected leaders at the national, state and local level, many of whom have supported women’s sports and soccer in the past with great passion. Jeff and I firmly believe that Tucson should have a women’s professional team that at its foundation reflects our great city and leads by example."
"Announcing Super League Tucson as one of our initial markets is a dream come true," said Amanda Vandervort, a native Tucsonan who is serving as the league's president. "With an ownership group that is deeply committed to the highest standards both on and off the field, this club will become a rallying point for every woman, girl and their families to aspire for greatness and celebrate all the wonderful things that make Tucson unique and special together."
A pro women’s side taking the field next year would mark a return of professional soccer to Tucson after FC Tucson’s “self relegation” to the semi-pro USL League Two at the end of last season.
Phoenix will also have a team in the league, making for an instant rivalry and easier travel than FC Tucson’s men’s side had as a pro squad for the last couple of years. In Phoenix Rising’s press release, they noted that Arizona-born players will have the option of having a pro career in state.
The league website lists 13 cities with interested ownership groups, only eight of which are slated for a 2024 start. Like FC Tucson, most of the teams have owners that also have men’s teams in USL leagues.
FC Tucson management would not comment on the record if the new team would bear the shield and name of FC Tucson or what will happen to the team’s women’s side that currently plays in the WPSL.
Many observers assumed that the Super League would form as a second division, but the league is seeking Division I status from the U.S. Soccer Federation. This would put them in competition for attention, and more importantly players, with the National Women’s Soccer League. There have been numerous tensions in that league between owners and players, many of them detailed in a report written by former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates in 2021. This league would provide another place for top flight women, including those who aren’t happy with the NWSL, to play in the United States.
The NWSL plays a spring-through-fall schedule.
Two years ago, league organizers announced they would seek Division II status, with the intention of starting play in 2023. That has been pushed back a year, with the Super League looking to open on equal footing at the top of the Soccer Federation's tier.