Soccer

Fresno’s new pro soccer team has big plans, starting with playing at Chukchansi Park

Get ready for a higher level of soccer, Fresno. Here comes the USL.

Ray Beshoff, owner of the Fresno Football Club, and General Manager Frank Yallop talk about the buzz surrounding the announcement of the new pro-level soccer team, which will play at Chukchansi Park.
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Ray Beshoff, owner of the Fresno Football Club, and General Manager Frank Yallop talk about the buzz surrounding the announcement of the new pro-level soccer team, which will play at Chukchansi Park.

Say hello to the Fresno Football Club.

A simple name for Fresno’s new professional soccer team, but part of an up-and-coming USL franchise that has grand goals, including the possibility of its own soccer stadium and teaming up with an MLS team.

The new Fresno soccer club’s name, along with its crest and team colors, were all unveiled during a vibrant news conference Wednesday attended by many from the local soccer community.

The new United Soccer League team will play under the team colors of light steel blue, navy and yellow, and possibly be nicknamed FFC.

I think it’s a powerful soccer market.

Ray Beshoff, president of owner of Fresno’s new USL franchise, the Fresno Football Club

JRW SOCCER 6
JOHN WALKER jwalker@fresnobee.com

“I envision that we have a great team, great fans and we really put a stamp that we’re one of the better teams in the U.S.,” said Ray Beshoff, president and primary owner of the Fresno Football Club. “That’ll make the city feel good.

“I think it’s a powerful soccer market.”

The Fresno Football Club will play its first two seasons downtown at Chukchansi Park, where Wednesday’s news conference was held. And it has an option to renew for a third year.

Fresno’s amateur soccer franchise, the Fresno Fuego of the Premier Development League, has called Chukchansi home since 2007. The Fuego will continue to play there, probably as an undercard to Fresno Football Club matches.

Fresno Football Club’s inaugural season is already around the corner, starting in 2018.

The field at Chukchansi Park will be modified to accommodate a full-size soccer field, as done when the stadium has hosted professional Mexican teams’ exhibitions. The soccer field will be extended into the infield and over the baseball mound (which will be chopped down for soccer, then rebuilt for Fresno Grizzlies games).

The Fresno Football Club and the Grizzlies, with help through the Pacific Coast League, plan to keep scheduling conflicts to a minimum.

“We like the relationship that we have with the Grizzlies right now, we’re comfortable here,” said Beshoff, who along with Scott Biehl owns Mercedes-Benz of Fresno. “There’s potential we could have our own stadium down the road. Maybe the city can find us a good spot.

“Soccer-specific stadiums are really good. We’ll wait and see how the first season goes then make a determination. There’s a chance we could be here for a long time. There’s a chance we could be here just for a few years.”

3Minimum number of Major League Soccer teams that Fresno Football Club owner Ray Beshoff says have been in contact about making Fresno an affiliate

Though Beshoff declined to state how much his group paid for the Fresno Football Club franchise, USL franchises typically can run about $5-6 million and have an operating budget of about $3 million.

USL franchise costs include player salaries. That’s different than the baseball model where major league teams pay the salaries of minor leaguers.

The USL is considered the equivalent of Triple-A in soccer, with Major League Soccer the equivalent to Major League Baseball.

Beshoff said he’s been in talks with at least three MLS teams about the Fresno Football Club becoming an affiliate. By partnering with an MLS team, a USL team can field as many as four MLS players (whose salaries are paid by the MLS club) during a season.

Some USL franchises operate without an MLS affiliation.

Beshoff expressed confidence the Fresno Football Club would become an MLS affiliate by the start of the 2018 season.

Fresno Football Club general manager Frank Yallop played 13 years in England then managed another 13 years at the MLS.

Frank Yallop, who played soccer for 13 years in England for Ipswich and was an MLS manager for another 13 years, comes aboard as general manager of the Fresno Football Club.

Yallop resigned as coach of the Phoenix Rising FC of the USL back in April.

He said he does not anticipate coaching FFC, instead focusing his attention toward bringing aboard the talent.

Yallop projected about 30 percent of the roster could be comprised of players with MLS experience, with the majority of players being young and working toward a promotion to MLS.

Beshoff added the Fresno Football Club would have the salary space to possibly pursue some big-name veterans.

“I have no worries this is going to be a good team,” Yallop said. “And we’ll definitely play some good teams during the preseason.”

Added Beshoff: “You’ve got to put a good product on the field. We’re going to do that.”

Bryant-Jon Anteola: 559-441-6362, @Banteola_TheBee

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