Friday, June 20, 2008

The Rowdies Return to Tampa Bay

USL announced yesterday that a new ownership group has come together to bring the Tampa Bay Rowdies back to the Sunshine State for a USL-1 side starting in 2010.

I have to say that I am glad to see the Rowdies name back. As a kid, I remember my father picking my brother, sister and I up from school on Friday afternoon's, making the four hour trek from Orange Park, FL (near Jacksonville) to Tampa to watch a 90 minutes soccer game and then make a four hour trek back that night. If my mom went, we stayed in a motel over night, but if Mom was working-it was four hours down and four hours back in one night.

The history is long and brilliant. From the days as a NASL club through the A-League and now a return to USL-1 soccer, there are a lot of players and fans in the area. I for one and really glad the club has returned under the Rowdies name. It was a part of my youth and part of my family history. I will have a childhood club to support in a couple of years and nothing could make me happier.

I wonder if my father will once again make the treks to Tampa to see the Rowdies play? Probably will be over nighter's now that he doesn't have to haul three rambunctious kids back and forth.

From the Press Release on USL:

The Tampa Bay Rowdies will field its first team in 2010 in the USL First Division, the top flight of United Soccer Leagues. Plans for 2009 include hosting exhibition matches, hiring staff and signing players and starting the Tampa Bay Rowdies Youth Academy. USL Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Holt says the team will bring good things to the community, fans and youth who have grown up as the game has matured.
The club has named Perry Van Der Beck as its technical director and director of community development. Van Der Beck is a well-known former Rowdie with strong local youth soccer ties. He was the first Rowdie ever drafted out of high school and was captain of the 1980 US Olympic team. Van Der Beck later coached the Tampa Bay Mutiny and has coached numerous youth teams as a Tampa resident.

"The ownership group is serious about the game and have a wonderful respect for the traditions that were established here in the 70’s. I am proud and happy to be a part of it all, especially with so much local support and expertise," said Van Der Beck.
Interstingly, USL is headquarterd in Tampa, which hasn't had a team in USL since 1993. USL founder and CEO Francisco Marcos was a Rowdies fan and public relations officer for the club in its NASL days.

Another great thing: the Rowdies will build a new soccer specific stadium--without taxpayer money.

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