With today’s announcement of Rowdies 2, the club has confirmed the worst kept secret in Tampa Bay soccer, but lots of other questions remain unanswered – here’s what we know and what we want to know:
- The team will compete in the upcoming 2016 NPSL season, in the South Region’s Sunshine Conference.
- That’s pretty much it.
The Sunshine Conference is completely composed of Florida-based clubs, including Jacksonville United, Kraze United (Orlando), Miami United, Miami Fusion, Storm FC (Miramar), Weston FC, and the recently announced FTL Strikers U-23. It is expected that the team will play a home and away schedule against the entire conference. In the playoffs, the club could have a chance to meet up with some familiar names such as Chattanooga FC (last year’s runners-up), Detroit City FC, or Cosmos B, last year’s NPSL champs. Several other NASL clubs, including New York, Indy, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Carolina operate NPSL sides as well.
Now, for the unknowns:
- Venue and tickets – while no home stadium has been announced yet, Al Lang seems to be the most likely option. Other possibilities could include USF’s Corbett Stadium or UT’s Pepin Stadium. A 3,000 seat stadium is being built at Premier Sports Campus in Bradenton but it’s opening date is TBA. These would all be good options for spreading the Rowdies name around the bay area.
- Coaching and staff – the Rowdies could choose to bring in an outsider as coach or use someone from the NASL side, similar to how Cosmos B have Alecko Eskandarian as head coach while he serves as assistant on the senior team.
- Playing roster – NPSL clubs are primarily amateur, with some clubs opting to pay players a small wage. Of the NASL clubs operating NPSL teams, 2 use the U-23 designation (Carolina, FTL) and 3 (NYC-B, ATL, Minnesota) function as reserve teams with no age restriction and a mix of youth and veteran players on their rosters. It remains to be seen how the Rowdies will fill out this roster, but owner Bill Edwards stated that “…we will sign top talent to compete for a championship.”
- Live streaming – several NPSL teams stream their home games on YouTube but it isn’t a leaguewide practice, although many of last year’s playoff games were broadcast. Will this be something the team looks to do from the start, or possibly down the road?
Personally, I’ve been advocating for some sort of reserve team playing in competitive games for a season or two now, so I’m really excited by this news. Younger/reserve guys will get meaningful minutes in games that mean something, with travel as well. I’m looking forward to getting more info about when and where they’ll be playing, but it represents a significant investment in identifying and developing younger players into potential contributors to the senior team.
What are you excited about when it comes to R2? What questions are you still waiting to find out the answers to? Let me know on Twitter!