USL side OKC Energy FC have designs on becoming a future MLS team and they're already thinking ahead to a potential stadium.
The club's owner, Bob Funk Jr., is set to lead a group of investors that will close on a 37-acre plot of land in downtown Oklahoma City with an eye toward building a soccer-specific stadium on the site that he’s hoping will be part of a future bid for an MLS team.
Funk confirmed to The Oklahoman last week that he plans to work with the city on a long-term plan to build a stadium as the centerpiece of a mixed-used development that would include housing, retail, hotels, parks, fountains and structured parking.
The site housed the Producers Cooperative cotton seed processing plant since the early 1900s until last year, when the co-op moved the plant outside of Oklahoma City. Members of the Producers Cooperative voted in June to approve the sale, which Funk and other local investors are expected to close on next spring.
Funk told The Oklahoman that a potential MLS stadium is a long-term play. Developing the site will take years and Funk said that housing, retail and parking projects will come before a potential stadium. Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said that the city could potentially be involved with the stadium project if MLS chose to expand to Oklahoma City.
“We are several years away before we will be in a position to actively pursue a Major League Soccer team,” Funk told The Oklahoman. “But it is clear, Oklahoma City’s best opportunity to secure a Major League Soccer team leads through the OKC Energy. The sustained success of OKC Energy has caught the attention of the league, underscoring the receptivity of the market to professional soccer. When we are in a position to earnestly pursue a Major League Soccer team, we are confident we will have a compelling case for Oklahoma City to present.”
MLS currently has 20 teams. Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC are both scheduled to join the league next year, with LAFC set to follow in 2018 along with a potential future team in Miami. The league has announced its intentions to eventually expand to 28 teams, with cities like St. Louis, Detroit, Sacramento, San Antonio and Cincinnati among the cities mentioned as potential candidates.
OKC Energy, who are coached by former Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and are affiliated with FC Dallas, are currently in fifth-place in the USL’s Western Conference. Oklahoma City is also home to an NASL franchise, Rayo OKC, with the first-year club recently undergoing a front-office shakeup this summer.