The United Soccer League has had an off-season filled with change and evolution, most notably with the league receiving Division II status from US Soccer. However, this feeling of a new era has extended to some of the USL’s clubs also.
Orange County Soccer Club: A New Look & A New Future
Orange County Blues FC have rebranded as Orange County Soccer Club, and that is just the beginning of the franchise’s new chapter. A partnership with expansion side Los Angeles Football Club will expect to see immense positives both on and off the field.
Orange County come off a strong 2016 campaign, eliminating Western Conference number one seed Sacramento Republic FC to reach the conference semi-finals.
Last Word On Sports had a chance to speak to Kelly Salmieri, the club’s Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations, about Orange County’s recent changes and what can be expected ahead in the future.
Roy Emanuel: “Was there anything specific about LAFC that drew you towards them in terms of a partnership?”
Kelly Salmieri: “It was the common goals that we had and a common vision. We both want to develop top-class talent from a local level, and give them a clear pathway from USL all the way up to the MLS level.”
RE: “Are there areas in which Orange County will be assisting LAFC as they prepare for their inaugural season in 2018?”
KS: “Yes, LAFC will be loaning players to Orange County starting with the 2017 season. Their players will have the opportunity to play for us in 2017. This will give many the chance to play in USL this coming season, and move to LAFC in 2018.”
RE: “Are there certain goals looking to be met at the academy and youth levels for both clubs?”
KS: “We’ll have a good partnership with LAFC, and as we both develop our own academies we will certainly cooperate in various aspects. We will see which players we may want on our team, and which of our players they may want to utilize.”
RE: “Looking ahead to the upcoming season, how important is it for Orange County to make the playoffs again in 2017?”
KS: “That is certainly the goal for any season! Not necessarily any more pressure for us than other times, but I think it’s about getting the best quality players out on the field and achieve the absolute best results that we can.”
RE: “With Logan Pause coming on as head coach, are expectations even higher?
KS: “We are very excited about Logan joining the club. Obviously with his experience, he understands what is needed to perform both at the USL level and what it takes to develop a player to bring them to Major League Soccer. We are looking forward to what he can do for our players in terms of their individual career paths. With his work ethic and commitment to the community, we are thrilled to have him on board.”
RE: “Do you expect the new partnership to affect Orange County’s attendance? And are there future stadium plans as well?”
KS: “We certainly expect the rebrand to have a positive effect on attendance, as we look to get out more into the local community and engage the fanbase. And we hope to see both clubs’ supporters at games as well. We are currently in the process of finalizing a new stadium agreement. We will be moving from Anteater Stadium to a new venue for the 2017 campaign, hoping to be completed and announced by the end of the month.”
RE: “Have there been any changes to the club’s overall vision or goals since USL’s Division II status was made official?
KS: “Nothing has really changed in regards to an organizational plan, but I think we will see a higher caliber of player coming out of the USL now with Division II status. I think it elevates the quality of everyone across the league.”