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Upstate awarded pro soccer franchise

Staff Report //March 14, 2018//

Upstate awarded pro soccer franchise

Staff Report //March 14, 2018//

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The Upstate will be home to a professional soccer team that is part of a new division of the United Soccer League. The Greenville-area team, whose name and mascot are to be determined, will join USL Division III along with South Georgia Tormenta FC and FC Tucson.

More teams for the new division will be announced later, according to a news release from the ownership group, which is led by Joe Erwin through Erwin Creates.

The team is expected to begin play in March 2019 in a temporary stadium with plans to renovate or build a permanent home in the future, according to the release.

Greenville entrepreneur Joe Erwin leads the ownership group through Erwin Creates, the company he founded in 2016. Erwin Creates includes managing partner Shannon Wilbanks and operating partner Doug Erwin. Veteran sports manager Chris Lewis has been hired to lead the soccer organization as team president.

“We are honored to have Greenville, South Carolina, as a founding member of USL Division III, as the team provides the more than 1.4 million people in the Upstate region with a professional team to call their own,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in the release. “Greenville is an incredible addition to USL Division III.”

The season will consist of about 14 home matches and several exhibition matches and will run to mid-September. Announcement of a permanent site is expected to follow later this year, along with the team’s name, colors and logo, according to the release.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the USL’s new Division III league and to bring professional soccer to our community,” Joe Erwin said in the statement. “The Upstate has a passion for the sport that extends from community soccer clubs that attract thousands of youth to high school teams that compete at the highest levels and nationally-ranked programs at Clemson University and Furman University.”

The USL anticipates launching in 8-12 markets for its inaugural 2019 season. The other two already-announced teams are in Statesboro, Ga., and Tucson, Ariz.

“This is a huge win for Greenville and the entire Upstate,” added Carlos Phillips, president of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce who was in Louisville, Ky., when the USL launched a team there. “I have seen firsthand the impact professional soccer can have on a community – in terms of economic development, company recruitment and attracting and retaining young professionals.”