The USL Super League has expanded, and it hasn’t even kicked a ball yet. The women’s pro soccer league that is planning to launch with division one sanctioning in August 2024 is adding a club in Fort Lauderdale, the league announced Tuesday.
Owned by Tommy Smith, the new club is planning to begin play in the inaugural season of the league. The Fort Lauderdale outfit plans for a “modernized stadium and on-site training facilities” at the former Miami Dolphins training facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, FL. The Dolphins recently moved to a new training center adjacent to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Smith noted “Our mission is to deliver the highest standard of play by recruiting world-class global talent while also empowering young women in South Florida. Super League Fort Lauderdale aims to create a direct pathway to Division 1 professional soccer, offering local players the opportunity to shine on the national stage and providing a platform for growth beyond the game.”
Fort Lauderdale joins USL Super League
Fort Lauderdale will join the already-announced lineup of teams that includes:
Spokane Zephyr FC
Tampa Bay Sun FC
In addition, Chattanooga, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Madison, and Oakland are slated for future seasons pending the completion of stadium projects.
First women’s professional team in South Florida since 2011
Southern Florida has only had one women’s professional soccer club in the past, and it lasted just one season. The relocated Washington Freedom of the WPS league played the 2011 season just up the road from Fort Lauderdale in Boca Raton. The team was known as “magicJack” (named after the owner’s internet-telephone product).
Notably, that club featured many USWNT stars such as Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Christen Press.
2011 was also the WPS’s final season. The league collapsed not long after attempting to terminate the magicJack team amidst disputes with team owner Dan Borislow.
Beating Beckham to the punch
USL Super League Fort Lauderdale has now planted its flag in the South Florida sand. They’ve now got first dibs on the women’s game in the region that has been the buzz of the US soccer landscape since this past summer when Leo Messi came to town.
MLS side Inter Miami CF currently plays in a temporary venue built on the site of Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Since it was announced and approved, that stadium has been touted as a potential home to a professional women’s team. Co-owner David Beckham has mulled over the idea in the past.
Now if that were to come to pass, it looks like it would have to be via expansion into the NWSL. And if Inter Miami does start a women’s Herons side, playing out of the yet-to-be-built new stadium near Miami International Airport would likely be a smarter play. Competing head-to-head in the Broward County area would not be an ideal setup for either team.
A rivalry re-ignited
Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay have a storied soccer rivalry that dates back to the 1970s. The Rowdies and Strikers, in various incarnations, battled it out over the decades. Even MLS got a brief taste with the Laudedale-based Miami Fusion and Tampa Bay Mutiny. Now, for the first time the “Florida Derby” comes to the women’s game.
Tampa Bay’s Super League club recently unveiled its name, Tampa Bay Sun FC. Ironically, a team called the Fort Lauderdale Sun were the first, and only, champions of the short-lived USL men’s league (unrelated to today’s USL) in 1984.
Fort Lauderdale will unveil their name, colors, and crest in the coming months. Fans can participate in a survey on the team website.
This author, for one, is certainly looking forward to enjoying some quality women’s soccer during the beautiful Florida winter season.
Image: USL Super League.
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