BOISE, ID — With football season done with, the Treasure Valley can start thinking long-term about a different kind of football...
That is, the European kind.
So why will we probably have hundreds of new local soccer fans within a few years?
Between the Idaho Steelheads and Boise Hawks, the city of Boise has two professional sports teams for fans to enjoy. but in just a few years, the City of Trees could become a soccer town.
"Just kind of look at the demography of the US and how the game of soccer is growing around the country and looking at how successful it's been up in the Pacific Northwest and recognize that Boise has a lot of similar soccer DNA in it's constituents so we felt this could be an imminently successful franchise in the marketplace," said AGON Sports and Entertainment President Jeff Eiseman.
AGON Sports and Entertainment, who own and operate the Boise Hawks, have secured the rights to bring a USL, or United Soccer League team into Boise. out of four different tiers in the USL, the new Boise team would be in the highest tier, or championship level, that offers something that no other minor-league sport can.
"Name a minor league baseball team anywhere in the country and you can argue that minor league baseball is the second tier of American Baseball in the United States but the reality is the Albuquerque Isotopes are never going to play the New York Yankees. Those teams solely exist to develop talent for their parent clubs. The Championship is different in the sense that if you have a USL Championship club in Boise, that team could play the LA Galaxy, that team could play Atlanta United. It's about winning soccer matches," said USL VP of Communications and PR Ryan Madden.
President of the Idaho Youth Soccer Association Bill Taylor, who has played a big role in bringing huge soccer events in the past to the Treasure Valley, says a USL team in Boise will not only bring a lot of money, fans, excitement, and more to the area, but something almost more important.
"In order for our kids to be able to have the opportunities that other areas of the country have, we needed to have a link to the top level, even though it's very few kids that make it to that level, it's the hope of being able to have that window and door open to these kids that provide a continuum to having that opportunity. And when you have the game played professionally in your area, the kids have the opportunity to go to the games, they have the opportunity to interact with the players, the players come out to clinics, college coaches come out to recruit more. We already know based on statistics that the kids that are in areas that have professional teams and leagues have a better chance of going on to play and have the opportunities to play in college because of the exposure they get," said Bill Taylor.
But there's one major hurdle standing in the way of this future Boise team...where they will play.
"The challenge that we have in the marketplace right now is that you need a facility that will hold seven to seventy-five-hundred people and we don't really have a place that can handle that right now without getting a new venue done. So right now, it's a matter of focusing on a new venue that can be the home to the Boise Hawks, be the home to the soccer team, as well as probably about 200 events throughout the course of the year," said Eiseman.
So what other benefits might a USL team in Boise bring to the city? Ryan Madden believes we would see a similar result to what happened in Louisville when they got a team.
"All of a sudden, Louisville City Football Club is the biggest show in town. The passion surrounding it is incredible, the supporters are lighting flares and singing songs in the crowd and all the local bars and pubs have Louisville City FC memorabilia all over the place and the players have become part of the fabric of the community and it's brought everyone together in this really cool way," said Madden.
Something Bill Taylor, a man who has seen more Idaho soccer than most, can definitely get behind.
"I see this as an opportunity for us to gather around an area and a place to have ownership of a unique culture of sport that's different than football, it's different than basketball and other sports. I mean this is world wide, there's a reason why this is the number one sport in the world. It just has a different connection WITH people that don't even play the game," said Taylor.
Barring any snags or setbacks, the new Boise USL team should kick off in about two years. And no, AGON Sports has not yet thought of a name for the team, but if you have a good idea for one, send it to Six on your Side's Matt Sizemore on his Facebook page: Click Here