Reno’s USL Soccer Team Takes Baby Steps in Inaugural Season
Reno 1868 FC will play Seattle OSA Football Club in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday, May 17, in Tukwila, Washington, while continuing its USL schedule on Saturday, May 20, at home at the Greater Nevada Field at 7 p.m., coming off its first win of the season. The victory moved the struggling team into 13th place out of 15 in the USL’s Western Conference. Reporting, main photo and audio by John Macaluso.
A Rough Start
To start its first season, in USL conference play, the club defeated Phoenix Rising FC on May 6, but lost earlier games to Orange County FC, Real Monarchs SLC, and San Antonio FC while drawing with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, and CO Springs Switchbacks FC.
While the team has gotten off to a rough start, attendance, at least to official statistics, has been above the league average, which is at about 4,000 fans per game.
“Well really right now it’s just about outreach and getting people to know the team actually,” Josh Putney, the PR and Digital Media Coordinator for the Reno 1868 FC, said.
The Local Lowdown: Reno 1868 FC
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Listen to the podcast above which goes in-depth with Reno 1868 FC staff about their season so far, and what to expect in the weeks ahead.
A Brief History of the Reno 1868 FC
In February of 2016, the United Soccer League (USL) awarded the city of Reno with the league’s 28th franchise. The Reno 1868 FC is under an affiliation agreement with the Major League Soccer (MLS) team, the San Jose Earthquakes.
A Staff Which Believes in the Team’s Growth
Putney said the team wants to get more college students to attend.
“We already have a UNR pass that’s available online,” Putney said as part of promotional efforts. “It’s 50 dollars, you get to go to a bunch of games for general admission. So it’s really awesome.”
“It’s a fledgling ball club right now,” Cory Smith, the public announcer for the team said. He also plays the same role for the Reno Aces, Reno Bighorns, Nevada softball, and Nevada men’s basketball.
“Attendance has been pretty good so far. I do think there’s room for growth and I think it will grow in this community,” Smith said.
Smith believes soccer is growing immensely.
“I think soccer, just in general as a sport, is growing across our country,” he said. “I know that soccer is starting to become a big thing in this area. A lot of youth play soccer in this area.”
An Old Cup to Compete In
The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) says that the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open, which the Reno team will start competing in this week, is the United States’ oldest sports tournament.
The thing that makes this tournament so unique is that it includes teams which are professional, amateur and from many different levels. Because of this, there is a possibility that the Reno 1868 FC could play a team from the Major Soccer League (MLS).
“I think it’s a game changer for us,” said Reno 1868 FC General Manager Andy Smith. “I think the opportunity is there for us to go deep into the tournament. In front of your home market when you’re beating, you know, the big boys, it’s cool. Like everyone comes out and it makes it very real.”
Putney also believes that Reno’s participation in the U.S. Open Cup is going to boost the team’s popularity.
“It’s a new team that’s going into the the Lamar Hunt Cup for the first time,” he said. “I mean, if we do well, I think it’s gonna be a lot, but just participating is gonna one, boost the confidence of the team. and it’s gonna make everyone in Reno feel a lot bigger…which is awesome.”
Battle Born Brigade
“If you come to one of our games, there’s a whole section that is just jumping up and down and cheering nonstop,” said Andy Smith of the team’s supporters section called the Battle Born Brigade. “Chanting, singing, smoke going off, smoke bombs, and drums. It’s just very different. It feels very European and South American.”
“You’re here to represent a home team and there’s not a better feeling,” Putney said. “I mean you really feel the environment. Even if you are not completely into soccer, I think watching a game will make you want to come back.”
“I love watching soccer,” said Juan Gonzalez, a hardcore soccer fan living in Reno, Nevada. “I’ve been to, like, a few games. It gets entertaining.”