RICHMOND, VA – (Tuesday, October 25, 2005) – In continued efforts to provide the Richmond community with an innovative, successful and entertaining soccer club, the Richmond Kickers would like
to announce the decision to re-align the professional team, shifting to the USL Second Division (USL2) for the 2006 season.
The Kickers’ mission has been to grow the beautiful game of soccer through a successful soccer club that entertains, invites community participation, and inspires all. In an effort to continue to achieve their mission, it is appropriate that the professional team align with the USL2 professional league, which encompasses other solid franchises such as the Wilmington Hammerheads (NC), Charlotte Eagles (NC), Pittsburgh Riverhounds (PA), Harrisburg City Islanders (PA), Cincinnati Kings (OH), Long Island Rough Riders (NY), Western Massachusetts Pioneers (MA) and the New Hampshire Phantoms (NH).
“Aligning with the USL2 will ensure a strong future for the Kickers, enabling us to maintain a competitive professional soccer team in Richmond as well as give us the ability to devote more resources to improve our infrastructure and make our overall product better,” comments General Manager Paul Sterbenz. “We have a commitment to this great city to continue to be a community leader while providing quality entertainment and a great sporting experience.”
As a USL professional franchise since 1993, the Kickers have been a part of Richmond history & culture for 13 years, and are currently the longest standing independent sports franchise in Richmond. In a climate where many pro teams have come and gone, only the Richmond Braves can rival the Richmond Kickers in terms of local professional sports teams, but they have a parent club supporting them. The club has grown to include a men’s (PDL) and women’s (W-League) top level amateur teams as well as a multi-level youth soccer club that benefits thousands of players and families in metro Richmond.
“We are different than most professional sporting endeavors in the fact that the Richmond Kickers are more than just a pro team trying to win a championship,” states President Tom Depcrynski, “We are a club that aims to serve this community through our involvement and our resources. We are working on numerous projects, that in due time, will be announced to re-affirm this desire.”
The USL professional division is a two-tiered system modeled after many of the historic professional leagues around the world and is comprised of the USL First Division and USL Second Division. The USL Second Division serves as the foundation of the professional structure and its regional focus allows professional soccer to exist in smaller markets, while providing premium soccer and exciting competition.
Sterbenz adds, “Just as USL1 has crept closer to the standard of Major League Soccer, USL2 has gained strength and is right on the heels of the quality of which the USL First Division offers. Also, as each professional franchise in this country continues to improve its product and its bottom line, we will find that the sport as a whole will benefit on a local, regional, and national level.”
The Kickers will compete in a 20-game league schedule during the months of April through August, of which 10 are regular season home games to be played at the University of Richmond Stadium (just off the Downtown Expressway) pending any changes at the Annual League meetings this coming weekend. In addition to the regularly scheduled games, the Kickers will look to play a “home and away series” with cross-state rival Virginia Beach Mariners for the James River Cup as well as a guaranteed exhibition match with D.C. United of Major League Soccer. The Kickers will continue to compete in the U.S. Open Cup and will be given the opportunity to challenge teams from across the country including teams from Major League Soccer and USL First Division.
The club will continue to strive to bring another championship to Richmond and will have numerous players from last year’s League Finalist team returning. The 2006 Kickers will consist of the highest quality players available, while continuing to scout for fresh new talent that will make an immediate impact on the team.
Since the club’s inception, the Kickers have fielded a competitive team at all levels of the USL including the Premier Development League (1993-1995), USL Second Division (1996) and USL First Division (1997-2005). Over the past 13 seasons, the Kickers have made four Championship appearances including winning the “Double” in 1995 with the Premier Development League title and the U.S. Open Cup Championship. Most recently, the Kickers completed a successful campaign in 2005 with a strong push for the USL First Division title, falling just short in the Championship match.
“Our ownership has helped build a fine community organization in the Richmond Kickers. The Kickers hold a vision of the sport for this community and it is our duty to accomplish it,” mentions Depcrynski. “We have recently completed our first five year strategic plan, reaching almost all of our measurable goals and are ready to embark on the next set of challenges to help grow this organization, our following and this great sport.”