USL PRO announced on Tuesday that the franchise rights owned by MLS-bound Orlando City SC have been transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, and that the Orlando USL PRO franchise will relocate to the city, effective for the 2015 season.
The Lousiville team – to be known as Louisville City SC – will be owned and operated by a group of local investors led by architect Wayne Estopinal, with Orlando City also retaining an ownership share. Additionally, Louisville will serve as Orlando's USL PRO affiliate, pending the approval of both USL PRO and MLS.
“USL PRO is thrilled to welcome Louisville City FC for the 2015 season,” USL CEO Alec Papadakis said in a statement. “The beautiful city of Louisville, on the banks of the Ohio River, features a rich collegiate soccer tradition and is destined to become one of the top professional soccer cities in the United States.
“The distinguished leadership of Wayne Estopinal, combined with the strong and proven mentorship of Phil Rawlins and Adrian Heath from the Orlando City partnership group, provides Louisville City FC with an outstanding professional soccer organization.”
The Louisville City ownership group says it has been working with the city to finalize an agreement to play at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the minor-league baseball team Louisville Bats.
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Louisville City will join fellow USL PRO newcomers Colorado Springs, Tulsa and St. Louis in 2015, bringing the number of teams in the league to 17.
“Louisville is a proven sports city,” Estopinal said in a statement. “Louisville City will deliver an exciting style and pace of play that continues the Orlando City tradition. Many investors see the future of soccer internationally and domestically, and Louisville City is pleased to be part of USL PRO and looks forward to bringing excitement and fan entertainment value to our city.”