Oklahoma City USL owners share long-term vision for MLS expansion bid

The owners of USL side OKC Energy FC have a long-term vision: to make their club a future candidate for MLS expansion.

In an interview with KOCO 5 News in Oklahoma City, part-owner Bob Funk, Jr. outlined what he sees as the plan to achieve expansion status.

"The community support for us is so important for our overall goal which is to get to the MLS.” he told KOCO. “That’s something we’re aspiring to and striving for and something we really want to attain and we’ve got to have everyone on board pulling in the same direction to get there.

"We are trying to take a very measured approach in how we get to our overall goal. We’re aspiring to get to the MLS. There’s no guarantee we’re going to get there. There are a lot of things that have to fall into place.”

OKC Energy FC were formed 2014 and have been managed by former Sporting Kansas City MLS Cup-winning goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, who led them to the USL playoffs for the first time in 2015 when they advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

After a two-year affiliate relationship with Sporting Kansas City was terminated at the end of 2015, the club inked a new two-year affiliation agreement with MLS side FC Dallas which allows MLS players to be loaned to the USL side.

"There’s a large ladder and we have to walk up that ladder in order to get there [to MLS],” Funk, Jr. continued. "One of the things we have to do is sell out our stadium, prove that it’s a viable product and then at some point we need to build a soccer-specific stadium. It can be multi-purpose, but it needs to be soccer-specific — getting that piece and getting involved with the youth movement in Oklahoma City and adding that into the chain.

"Those are the steps we have to get to in order to really make a bid and show MLS that ‘Hey, Oklahoma City is a viable market. It’s a market that can support a Major League Soccer team. We have the stadium, please come take a look at us.' We have to set that foundation first."

MLS is currently comprised of 20 clubs with Atlanta United FC, Minnesota United FC and LAFC joining in coming seasons. Commissioner Don Garber has indicated that he expects the league to expand to 28 clubs.

OKC Energy FC opened their season with a 2-1 home loss to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks and will next host Saint Louis FC on Saturday, April 9 at 8 pm ET.