MEMPHIS, Tenn. – United Soccer League (USL) officials announced today that Memphis, Tennessee, will be the home of an expansion club for the league’s 2019 season. The club’s ownership group is led by Peter Freund and Craig Unger, owners of the Memphis Redbirds, the AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball, and the team will play at AutoZone Park, located in the heart of Memphis.
Memphis is the third team to join the USL for the 2019 season, with the league having previously announced its arrival in Birmingham, Alabama, and return to Austin, Texas, and will become the state’s second city with a USL club following the addition of Nashville SC for the 2018 USL season. Memphis’ arrival in the league also continues to grow the USL’s sizeable footprint in the Southeast and adds another outstanding ownership group to the league’s world-class leadership.
“The addition of Memphis to the USL is another landmark for the growth of both the league and the sport of soccer in the Southeast,” said USL CEO Alec Papadakis. “The USL continues to lead this growth in the sport’s popularity and demand by identifying and securing thriving expansion markets, with Memphis the latest example. This in turn continues to drive the league toward its goal of becoming one of the top Division II leagues in the world, alongside the likes of the English Championship, Liga Adelante in Spain, and Germany’s 2. Bundesliga.
“Memphis has already shown itself to be a passionate sporting city, with the work Peter Freund, Craig Unger and their organization at the Memphis Redbirds a perfect illustration of that,” Papadakis continued. “We are extremely pleased to add Peter and Craig to our already world-class ownership group, and believe the experience they bring from operating and managing a professional sports organization will mirror the success other USL clubs with similar backgrounds have built.”
The second-largest city in the state of Tennessee with a growing metropolitan area population of 1.3 million people, Memphis adds another historic city to the USL’s expanding Southeastern footprint. In addition to the natural in-state rivalry with Nashville SC, the club will also be part of a group of 10 current teams within a 500-mile radius of each other, including the likes of Louisville City FC, the Charleston Battery, the Charlotte Independence, Saint Louis FC and the Swope Park Rangers.
A top 50 media market in the United States, Memphis is home to several large corporations like Fortune 500 businesses FedEx, International Paper and AutoZone, and Fortune 1000 brands like ServiceMaster Global Holdings and Mueller Industries. The cultural birthplace of Rock and Roll, and home of Graceland, Memphis has played a major role in American history. The home of the National Civil Rights Museum, and to the famed Beale Street, Memphis is a city rich in culture, entertainment and sports.
The city also has a strong soccer culture, with more than 8,000 of the 50,000 youth soccer players in the state of Tennessee located in Memphis, an American Outlaws chapter and two strong college soccer programs at the University of Memphis.